South Dakota's state parks had a huge boost in visitors over the Memorial Day weekend, which suggests South Dakotans have grown tired of staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While large numbers of visitors came to state parks, that doesn't mean they were crowded together like a sporting event in an arena. In most cases, families can stay a healthy distance from other families. In some cases, long walks in a state park can be quite isolated.
There is still concern about public areas, like restrooms or playground equipment. Park officials are working to keep those sanitized and asking visitors to practice their own prevention habits.
The increase is notable compared to last spring, when rainy weather conditions reduced the number of visitors. And there are still cancellations occurring this year as some people worry about the spread of the coronavirus.
State parks in the Sioux Falls area, which has had the most COVID cases, have doubled their visitations this year. Good Earth State Park had about 18,000 visits, Big Sioux Recreation Area had 11,000 visits, Palisades State Park had about 29,000 visits and Newton Hills State Parks had about 30,000 visits.
No one yet knows how the state park season will play out, as officials could see the numbers go either way. Some visits might change from a camping visit to simply a drive-through. Fishing license issuance has more than doubled ... are visitors hoping to catch fish to avoid store-bought food?
In any case, we're glad to see people taking advantage of wholesome outdoor activities. Being out in nature is good for a person both mentally and physically. Even seeing more sunshine can boost spirits.
If we continue the anti-virus practices we've learned so well by now, visiting state parks -- including those at Lake Herman and Lake Madison -- seem like a great way to spend summer days this year.
-- Jon M. Hunter