|Wednesday, Nov 16, 2005|
Minuteman Missile National Historic Sites second year of visitor tours was booked solid through the summer season. Visitors from around the country were treated to a behind-the-scenes sneak preview of one of our countrys newest national park areas. Interest in the site was so popular that reservations, beginning back on April 1, 2005, filled most of the tour slots weeks in advance.
Our staff worked for many months preparing Delta-01 and Delta-09 for our second season and we are thrilled to report on the incredible visitor interest and success of the tours, said site Superintendent Mark Herberger. In contrast to our 2004 season, this year we were able to allow visitor access into the underground launch control center. National Park Service rangers guided over 2,000 visitors through the launch control facility (Delta-01) and to view the silo and intercontinental ballistic missile (Delta-09), an increase of 55% over the previous year.
The summer tours not only provided visitors with information on the once-classified military installation, they served to assess the sites needs for conservation and visitor services for when Minuteman Missile will be fully operational and open to the public year-round. Visitor statistics from this season can be used as a base to plan and prepare for future years. From this seasons visitor counts, we can begin to calculate several important statistics such as where people were from, how they learned about Minuteman Missile, and what drew them to this area, Herberger said. A snapshot of visitors shows that the highest percentage were from Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois, Ohio, and Florida. Forty-three states were represented with 3% of visitors from international countries.
54% of visitors learned about Minuteman Missile from the internet, 16% from travel publications such as Exploring the Black Hills and Badlands and South Dakota newspapers, 7% from local businesses and community residents, 2% found the project office out of curiosity (walk-ins), and 2% from Black Hills Central Reservations. Although many visiting individuals and families were traveling through the region, 8% planned their trip to western South Dakota specifically to tour the historic site. Park Ranger Chris Wilkinson, a new resident of Wall, South Dakota, served this summer as a volunteer Park Guide at Minutemen Missile. According to Wilkinson, visitors were astounded by the experience of entering the underground launch control center. They were shocked to stand in the same location were missileers could have launched a nuclear strike.
Although Minuteman Missile has been open for only two seasons, we are already seeing how the site will prove to be a significant draw for tourists to the region. Even with our limited staff and resources over 5,000 people arrived at the historic site this year. 10% of our visitors increased their stay in the area by an extra night in order to have the time to tour the former military facility. That statistic reflects on how all or of the local communities - Wall, Philip, Kadoka, and others - will benefit, this year and in future years, from tourism at Minuteman Missile.
Due to the overwhelming interest in the site, park rangers have decided to continue with tours through the fall and winter as long as weather conditions permit. One tour per day, Monday through Friday, is offered at 10:00 am. Call the project office at (605) 433-5552 to make a reservation.