SPEARFISH CANYON — The infernal parking situation at the Devil’s Bathtub has received some intervention from the Black Hills National Forest Service; which maintains the trail itself, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department; which patrols the Spearfish Canyon Highway, and South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department; which owns the property in between the trail and the highway.
“It’s a myriad of three different jurisdictions,” said Steve Kozel, Northern Hills District Ranger, Friday.
For years, the private residents and land owners on Cleopatra Place, which functions as the entry point for the Devil’s Bathtub trail, have been plagued with swarms of tourists and trail seekers congesting the access to their property.
“(It) quite simply became unsafe,” said Lawrence County Sheriff Brian Dean. “Ultimately, neither first responders, utility companies, or our public at large could traverse through all of the parked vehicle in a safe manner.”
Authorities have attempted to alleviate the Machiavellian parking problem in the past by posting signs warning visitors not to park on the side of the highway and directing motorists to leave room for the comings and goings of others to little or no avail. At times 30 or more vehicles have been parked amongst the signs.
Now, thanks to the cooperative efforts of the three entities responsible, an alternative parking area has been designated to handle the onslaught of outdoor enthusiasts.
The parking area in located roughly 750 feet south of Cleopatra Place, next to the Homestake Hydro 2 building, which is also owned by the GF&P.
“What we’re doing is allowing for parking to occur here on the edge of the property so that we can alleviate that congestion on Cleopatra Place,” explained John Kanta, regional manager for the GF&P.
In addition to the off-road parking area, reflective road markers have been placed on either side of the Highway to deter people form parking on the shoulders and signs emblazoned with “NO PARKING” now line entrance to Cleopatra Place making it difficult for vehicles to park in that area at all.
“To facilitate these changes, we as law enforcement need to be patient with our public as they learn to adapt, however in our patient approach, public safety must remain paramount,” Dean said. “Therefore our public can expect a considerable increase to law enforcement presence in this are and as is appropriate, parking laws will be enforced.”
While there is no official trailhead for the Devil’s Bathtub, at the moment there is a rough cut trail that hugs the creek from the Hydro 2 building to the Cleopatra Place bridge so hikers can safely make it to the beginning of the trail without the hazard of walking along the highway.
“We have mowed and will keep a mowed a path here that allows them to walk down by the creek and not up by the Highway,” Kanta said.
Kozel asked that the public understands their responsibility when coming the attraction and be good stewards of the property.
“As you notice we have no facilities associated with the Devil’s Bathtub accept for the parking area,” he said. “We have no restrooms, we have no trash bins, so we do ask the public, when they do come hear that they pack it in (and) pack it out.”
He also said that over the next few months, the group would continue to look into options to improve and develop access to the Devils’ Bathtub trail.
“That group that we convened will continue on into the future to look at long term options for parking related to Devil’s Bathtub,” he said.
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