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A lone hiker last fall walks one of the many Spearfish Canyon paths strewn with autumn leaves and color. The state is working to acquire land for a Spearfish Canyon state park. 

Journal file

PIERRE | A key piece of what eventually could be a new Spearfish Canyon state park moved into place Thursday.

The state Game, Fish & Parks Commission voted unanimously Thursday to accept 73 more acres, including Spearfish Falls, in the scenic northern Black Hills.

Nonprofit Spearfish Canyon Foundation is paying $750,000 to Barrick Gold Corporation for the property and giving it to the state government.

The additional land would allow a trail connecting with two parcels totaling 53 acres at Savoy and Roughlock Falls that Game, Fish & Parks received 10 years ago.

Three-tenths of one acre that was to be part of the current gift remains tied up in an unresolved lawsuit brought by a landowner against Barrick and the foundation.

Doug Hofer, director for the state Division of Parks and Recreation, told the commission that Gov. Dennis Daugaard is working with South Dakota’s delegation in Congress on a possible land swap to obtain much more property in the canyon.

Hofer said a trade with the U.S. Forest Service would need approval from Congress. He said U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., would lead the effort.

The goal is to obtain more than 1,400 acres of federal land along Little Spearfish Creek, east of the state property, that would cover about three miles to Timon Campground.

Along that stretch there is a dirt road vehicles use in good weather.

Hofer said isolated in-holdings of state land within the Black Hills National Forest could be offered in the trade.

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If the plan comes together, Spearfish Canyon would become South Dakota’s second-largest state park. Custer State Park in the southern Black Hills has 71,000 acres. 

“That all sounds amazing. We’ve all been excitedly waiting to get this acquisition done,” Cathy Peterson of Salem, the commission’s new chairperson, said.

She said commission members drove the road last fall.

“It is beautiful back there,” Peterson said. “We’ve been waiting for this. It’s awesome.”

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