Survey: Mount Rushmore visitors like park, but not the price tags

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) – A survey of hundreds of visitors to Mount Rushmore National Memorial shows that the vast majority of tourists are satisfied with their visit, with an average tour lasting nearly three hours, but it also highlights ways visitors say the site could be improved.

Researchers at the University of Idaho prepared a report based on the survey as part of the National Park Service Visitor Services Project. Nearly 1,300 questionnaires were given to visitors in June 2013, and 782 were returned. The answers provided a wide range of data including who visited the Black Hills, what drew them to the area and other places they visited near the site.

Ninety-seven percent of visitor groups rated the overall quality of the facilities, services and recreational opportunities at the memorial as “very good” or “good,” while less than two percent rated them as “very poor” or “poor.”

The report shows people from 49 states, including South Dakota, visited the memorial between June 21 and 27, when the questionnaires were given. The study does not say which state did not have at least one respondent.

The cost of parking and the abundance of items manufactured in China that are sold in the gift shop were among the issues raised by visitors.

Although 30 percent of respondents said they were “very satisfied” and 37 percent said “satisfied” with the parking facility, several complained about the price.

“No charge to visit monument so must charge for parking to pay upkeep?” one respondent wrote.

“We have the annual family park pass and were very disappointed to have to pay an entry fee when other parks are free,” another one reported.

The report also states that the gift shop is popular – about 68 percent of visitors stopped by – but many were disheartened after seeing several foreign-made items being sold at the shop.

“It’s sad to see so many ‘made in China’ items for our national parks and memorials,” another visitor wrote.

The newspaper reports the study will be presented on April 8 at the Black Hills, Badlands and Lakes Visitor Information Center in Rapid City.

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