State parks preparing for packed memorial day weekend

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now)- According to AAA, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial day last year. But due to COVID-19, they're projecting this weekend will likely see a record low.

”I think this year we’re going to see, even though gas prices are a dollar cheaper than they were last year, they are at a $1.77 for a statewide average in South Dakota, people are still hesitant to maybe get out and do the traveling that they once did,” said Marilyn Buskohl, AAA South Dakota Public and Government Affairs Manager.

So for the first time in 20 years, AAA is not issuing a Memorial day travel forecast. With each state having different restrictions Buskohl says it’s hard to gauge what travel will look like. But they do predict: ”Most people when they do feel comfortable to travel and it’s safe to travel again that they will choose kind of local destinations or you know places that they can drive to,” said Buskohl.

This is something state parks like Lewis and Clark Recreation Center in Yankton are already experiencing.

”We’ve had our biggest April ever. Our visitation is up 108 percent and camping is up 138 percent just for April,” said Shane Bertsch ,District Park Supervisor for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

State parks are gearing up for a busy memorial weekend as many campsites are already fully booked. To ensure a safe time for campers and staff precautions have been put in place.

”We have placed plexiglass up in our welcome center and the gate attendants will be wearing masks when they’re dealing with people. We don’t want people to get out of their cars when they come up to the booths when we assist them,” said Bertsch.

Park Staff also ask that visitors and campers practice social distancing.

”We’re going to have a lot of campers in our parks, statewide everything is probably going to be full. So the main thing is to keep that six foot distance between different parties,” said Bertsch.

That way everyone has a fun and safe time.