Forest Service seeks private partner for Pactola center
HILL CITY, S.D. (AP) — Black Hills National Forest administrators are looking for someone to take over management of the Pactola Visitor Center and operate it as a business.
The Forest Service would continue to own the facility and would keep an employee on site to provide visitor information and other services to the public. But leasing it to a private entity would improve its offerings, Forest Supervisor Mark Van Every told the Rapid City Journal.
“While the facility has been operated by the Black Hills National Forest since it was built, we feel there is an opportunity to expand its use to outside sources to allow such amenities as a gift shop, food service and special events,” he said.
The visitor center is on a 3-acre site at the southeast end of the Pactola Reservoir, 13 miles north of Hill City along state Highway 385. It is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. About 50,000 people visit each year.
The center’s main structure, a 2,950-square-foot, wood-and-stone A-frame building, was constructed by trainees working for the Boxelder Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center between 1968 and 1976.
The Forest Service’s budget for visitor centers has declined in recent years, and operating the Pactola Visitor Center has become difficult, according to Jerry Krueger, deputy supervisor for the Black Hills National Forest. He said it costs $50,000 annually to maintain and staff the center, and cost-saving arrangements to keep the center staffed have been difficult to sustain. The center was open only five days per week last summer instead of seven.
“We’ve kind of been lurching from one year to the next to find partners and make arrangements for staffing,” Krueger said.
The Forest Service is asking interested parties to submit ideas for the potential future use of the facility. Proposals are due Dec. 1. After reviewing the ideas, the Forest Service may choose a concept, solicit proposals from the public and select an operator for the center.
Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com