Locals push for reopening of Lake Hiddenwood State Park

The late evening news on KEVN Black Hills Fox.
Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 9:54 PM MDT
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SELBY, S.D. (KEVN) - South Dakota is home to fifty-six state parks, attracting millions of visitors from around the world each year.

However, for many locals in the communities near those state parks, they serve a much bigger purpose than just attracting tourists.

That is the case for the residents of Selby, and their Lake Hiddenwood State Park.

“My daughter got married out here,” said Bernie Sulken, Vice President of the Lake Hiddenwood Foundation Inc. “There have been a lot of weddings out here since that.”

In May 2018, Lake Hiddenwood State Park was destroyed when floods from heavy rainfall that year tore down the dam, and by extension, the only roadway into the park.

“We had anywhere from 10 to 18 inches of rain in one evening,” said Scott Schilling, President of the Lake Hiddenwood Foundation Inc. “It washed through the Hiddenwood creek, washed out the dam, and consequentially the road, and left us with no access to the park.”

With four wheel drive all but being a requirement to get into the park now, many in the community, and those in state government, wondered if opening the park back up would ever even be possible.

That fear pushed six concerned citizens to form the foundation.

“We thought something would happen a little earlier than what it did,” said Schilling. “So then a bunch of us just decided to put the foundation together. To be honest, we just decided it wasn’t moving fast enough and that we wanted the park back.”

Now, roughly two years after the foundation was formed, and almost three years since the flood, the citizens of Selby are just mere months away from reopening their park. The foundation has raised enough money to build a new main entrance into the park, which will make it accessible to the public once again.

“That is going to be the big project, putting that road in,” said Schilling. “We have to dig eight or nine feet into that hill, and it costs a lot of money.”

Even with the road, much work will still be ahead, to include rebuilding the dam in a new location, and rewiring electricity around the park. However, the new road into the park is seen as an “unofficial reopening.”

“Everyone has kind of come together, because we all have growing up memories,” said Stulken. “Raising the kids, having school picnics, church picnics, boy scouts... Everything that happens around the neighborhood, kind of happens around here.”

The Lake Hiddenwood Foundation hopes to have the road into the park built, and the park officially reopened, by mid-July of this year.