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Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Poll: Should Governor Open Valhalla to Public Rental?

Democratic candidate for governor Scott Heidepriem has raised the issue of opening "Valhalla" to the public. No, we're not talking about lowering the number of Normans you have to axe to join your Viking brethren in paradise. We're talking about South Dakota Governor and Senator Peter Norbeck's Black Hills cabin, which the state Game Fish and Parks now tends within Custer State Park. (Learn more of the history in this excellent first-person essay by Kevin Woster.)

Valhalla, Custer State Park. CSP photo featured in Tom Domek, Custer State Park, Arcadia, 2005, p. 76. Click photo to enlarge
The Madville Times poll question: Should Game Fish and Parks open the Peter Norbeck "Valhalla" cabin for rental to the general public?

Heidepriem argues the Rounds Administration has turned Valhalla into a secret compound for the governor and his chosen friends. The citizens of South Dakota have paid for expensive upgrades to the cabin (over $225K in recent years), so citizens ought to be able to use the facility, says Heidepriem. The idea of a Black Hills summer retreat reserved for the governor's use is iconic, says Heidepriem, of the cronyism and secrecy that underlies many of the current administration's bad policies that Heidepriem wants to change. (Worth noting: Black Hills resident and erstwhile GOP almost-candidate for U.S. House Thad Wasson appears to agree!)

The Rapid City Journal has editorialized that the facility should be open to the public to honor Peter Norbeck. RCJ notes the cabin is on the National Register of Historic Places. The editors say Norbeck's historical significance as well as the unique architecture of the cabin justify sharing the site with all South Dakotans.

The state feels otherwise. Game Fish and Parks declines to provide a list of those permitted by Governor Rounds to use the cabin, saying state law exempts guest lists of GF&P facilities from open records laws. The cabin is gated, and a couple years ago GF&P removed road signage to better hide the location.

So what do you think? Should the Norbeck cabin serve more of a public function? Should GF&P rent the facility out to the public like any other camping cabin, open to anyone willing to pay, first come, first served? Or should the site remain restricted by the governor's discretion? Vote in the poll in the right-hand sidebar, then discuss the issue here in the comment section. Poll runs through Saturday breakfast time, so vote now!


  1. I was floored when I learned of this house. It should be rented to the general public. It is a premium facility and will command a premium price.

  2. Apparently ip is one of the only Democrats that believes that the State's Chief Executive should have exclusive access to a secure retreat. Nefarious players exist.

  3. It should be open for public use, that being said, it could be an amazing part of an artists residency program, with Black Hills Theatre (hopefully) just down the road. Artists, painters, writers, actors, sculptors, give em' a home for a few weeks or months, build a little arts corridor in Custer, and give it the the SDAC (South Dakota Arts Council) to oversee. (At least we'll know who staying)


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