A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:
In South Dakota, we value the outdoors. Our economy is based on agriculture. Our heritage is based on outdoor activities -- hunting pheasants, fishing in the Missouri River, camping in our state parks, and enjoying the beauty of the Black Hills. We invest in the outdoors and create assets that will be passed on to future generations.
This year, I am asking the Legislature to invest in three projects that will strengthen our outdoor heritage: a new state park at Blood Run in Lincoln County, an extension to the Mickelson Trail, and a new visitor center at Custer State Park.
First, I am proposing that we create our 13th state park at Blood Run in Lincoln County. This will be South Dakota's first new state park in 40 years. The Blood Run site southeast of Sioux Falls has a history over the centuries as a place for trade and peaceful gathering of Native American tribes. The pristine oak forest on the rolling banks of the Big Sioux River will provide new opportunities for education and recreation in a place of beauty and cultural significance. The park would be called Good Earth State Park.
As a second initiative, I am proposing an extension from the Mickelson Trail to Mount Rushmore. This extension will allow hikers and bikers to approach our Shrine of Democracy on a winding trail through a wilderness area of the Black Hills. A parallel track will also accommodate horseback riders. The Mickelson Trail is already one of our nation's finest hiking and biking trails, and linking it with Mount Rushmore will make it even more outstanding.
Finally, I am proposing a new visitor center at Custer State Park. The facility will include a theater where visitors can learn about all the features and opportunities for experiences that are found in Custer State Park. Other parks using such an introductory tool have found that visitors will lengthen their stays if they are educated about all the offerings in the park. Our Custer State Park is a true jewel, on par with many national parks, but visitors will sometimes overlook the breadth of its offerings. A new visitor center will help avoid this, and encourage tourists to stay longer.
Because of our state's balanced budget and strong economy, we are fortunate that South Dakota is in a position to invest in these projects. Our Game, Fish, and Parks Department estimates that these three projects, once built, will be profitable -- that is, the visitor fees they generate will cover the costs of the parks and help fund South Dakota's other state parks.
South Dakota's love for the outdoors is something that we must pass on to our children and grandchildren. As we are able, we should invest in projects that will be assets for generations to come.