A shuffling of money has enabled Wind Cave National Park officials to reopen the Elk Mountain Campground for the summer.
Park officials earlier this year closed the campground, a victim of the budget sequestration. However, park officials now say they can use funds previously earmarked for another project to keep the campground open this summer.
“We looked at our sequestration plan and determined we could delay an upcoming project to install a backup generator for the visitor center and instead reopen the campground this summer with limited services,” said Wind Cave Superintendent Vidal Davila. “We held discussions with Custer State Park and looked at contracting out campground services, but none of these options could be done in the short timeframe needed before summer.”
Last year the campground took in $25,046 in revenue and cost $46,154 to operate. Campground fees accounted for less than 4 percent of park fee revenue in 2012. The park has submitted a request to initiate the public involvement process necessary to raise campground fees beginning in 2014. The cost per site would increase from $12 to $18 in the summer, when the water is turned on, and from $6 to $12 in the winter, when the restrooms are closed and only a vault toilet is available.
This summer one of the four loops in the campground will remain closed, and maintenance activities, such as cleaning services, will only occur five days a week.
“This is the most attention this little campground has ever gotten,” said Superintendent Davila. “On a typical night last year, two out of three sites were vacant. We’re hoping this attention will result in increased visitor use now that people know how quiet it is at the Elk Mountain Campground.”
The park will continue to implement other aspects of its sequestration plan. This summer the visitor center will open and close an hour earlier and there will be fewer ranger-led programs.