South Dakota Park Owners Have Mixed Outlook

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April 13, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

A recession that could stretch into summer might be good news for one industry: private campgrounds in South Dakota, as vacationers stay close to home, according to the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader.
"It's going to be a good year," said Bruce Aljets, owner of Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park in Sioux Falls.
Many vacationers across the country are planning to enjoy recreation closer to home this year, as the economy tightens belts and eliminates expensive travel.
"Reservations are up about 20% already this year," Aljets said.
"I think people are still going to go camping; I don't know if they're going to travel, per se," Aljets added. "The big word in the industry right now is 'staycations.' "
But private campgrounds in West River haven't seen the same increases, perhaps because campers there are more often travelers from across the country.
"People from closer by will be the ones coming to campgrounds," said Cherrylee Bradt, executive director of the South Dakota Campground Owners Association.
"We had a spring meeting, and most people indicated that they are behind on reservations," she said.
Aljets is one of several private campground owners in South Dakota planning improvements to facilities.
Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort in Spearfish is putting in a golf course. Beaver Lake Campground in Custer is planning to install a clubhouse this summer.
"We're going to do some landscaping to the mini golf and the front of the park entrance," Aljets said.
The recession already has changed one campground's plans for the summer.
Martha Sherman, manager of Camp America in Salem, said an inability to get a business loan killed a planned pool replacement.
She said reservations have been about average this year and could be helped by construction of the TransCanada Keystone oil pipeline in nearby Spencer.
Bradt said she's optimistic that the spring and summer will bring more reservations.
"I think probably people will – once they start confirming their plans," she said. "Probably this year we will not be down much. That's my hope."
"I think the economy's starting to come around a little bit," Aljets said.
Besides, Aljets said, his business was able to duck the brunt of the bad news.
"We're not open in the wintertime, when the economy was the worst," he said.

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