State Parks in the Black Hills see more visitors in 2020 from previous year

State Park visitation was up 31% from 2019.
State Park visitation was up 31% from 2019.(Nick Nelson)
Published: Jan. 3, 2021 at 5:00 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - As 2020 ends, South Dakota is seeing mixed tourism numbers this year because of the pandemic. The State promoted safe outdoor activities this year with the Black Hills as the top destination.

Although the total number of tourists in the Black Hills was down about 15% from last year, outdoor recreation spots saw an increase in visitors. State Park visitation was up 31% from 2019.

Michelle Thomson is the President of the Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association. She said that there was a fear at the start of the pandemic that the tourism industry would suffer.

“We didn’t really know what to expect when the pandemic hit, and when people stopped traveling nationwide,” Thomson said. “Some businesses, like outdoor recreation-type businesses had fantastic years, and some were down slightly. But overall, we had a really great year.”

One State Park that saw an increase in traffic? Mount Rushmore. Over 80,000 more people visited the monument this year compared to last.

Chief of Interpretation and Education Maureen McGee-Ballinger said that safe hiking trails provided a good opportunity for sightseeing during this unprecedented year.

“You don’t have to be enclosed, people can exercise distancing, they can wear their masks, and we’ve had a lot of people take advantage of that time here and enjoy the sculpture as well as some of the trails this summer.”

McGee-Ballinger also says the visit by President Donald Trump and the fireworks display brought thousands of visitors this July.

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