Simplified: 2020 was a record year for South Dakota state parks, and data through the end of April shows 2021 might be just as bustling.

Why it matters:

  • The extra traffic means more money for the state Parks and Recreation Division.
  • It also means camp sites are booking faster, so travelers will need to plan accordingly.
  • This time last year, the division had recorded $5.4 million in revenue. By the end of April 2021, it had more than $8 million.
  • That extra revenue comes at a time when the parks division really needs it, said Deputy Director Al Nedved. In 2019, the state saw flooding that caused millions of dollars in damage to the parks system.
"In a lot of cases, those projects were denied FEMA funding," Nedved said. "(The surge in park traffic) came at a unique time to be able to fund (repairs to) a lot of the damage that took place the year before, which was very significant."

Why so much revenue in 2021?

There are a couple of reasons the revenue is up so much higher in 2021 compared to 2020, when people were really seeking safe, outdoor activities during the early days of the pandemic.

  • First, there was a period of time in 2020 when the parks system didn't charge entrance fees. Even still, many paid them anyway.
  • Second, Nedved predicts that a new online system to buy parks passes is making it easier for folks to buy them earlier in the season.

What happens next?

It's too soon to say what the rest of the year will look like. Nedved said the state won't really be able to draw conclusions on growth year-over-year until the end of the summer.