Campers will be able to pitch their tents at Elk Mountain Campground north of Hot Springs after all.
The Wind Cave National Park campground, which had been closed since March 7 due to a 5 percent operating budget reduction, is scheduled to reopen Friday, May 24, but with fewer services.
Closing the campground was one of several actions park officials took as part of its congressionally mandated sequestration plan. Park officials cited "changing circumstances" that caused them to reverse course and use funds previously earmarked for another project to pay to keep the 64-unit campground open.
"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 park 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 is initiating the process necessary to raise campground fees beginning in 2014 and the proposal would increase camping fees 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 is the most attention this little campground has ever gotten,” Davila said. “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.”
U.S. Sen. John Thune issued a statement Thursday saying the decision to keep the campground open is a "victory for park visitors."
As part of its sequestration plan, the park's visitor center will open and close an hour earlier and there will be fewer ranger-led programs.