The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust awarded a $4 million grant for the Custer State Park Bison Center. It is set to open in the spring of 2022.
The center, which will be located near the Custer State Park corral complex, will educate visitors through interpretive displays and tell the origin story of the park’s bison, herd management and the annual Buffalo Roundup and Auction.
“Visitors to South Dakota are treated to breathtaking landscapes, and the bison are a crucial part of that,” Gov. Kristi Noem said in a news release. “Custer State Park has played a key role in vison conservation for over a century.
“This one-of-a-kind center will allow the park to tell its story and educate future generations on the importance of the bison,” Noem added. “I’m grateful to Walter Panzirer and the Helmsley Charitable Trust for their generosity and commitment to this project.”
The free-roaming herd of nearly 1,300 bison at Custer State Park is one of the world’s largest publicly owned bison herds. Once complete, the center will allow visitors to learn about the role the park plays in preserving the North American bison.
“We are excited to lead the funding effort to make the Custer State Park Bison Center possible,” said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “Custer State Park is known worldwide for its scenery, wildlife, and outdoor recreation.
“To help ensure the park’s educational opportunities reflect the grandeur of the park, Helmsley has made significant investments, providing funding for the Custer State Park Visitor Center and the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Cente,” Panzirer added. “The opening of the Custer State Park Bison Center will provide visitors a landmark destination to learn about and understand Custer State Park’s role in preserving the North American Bison.”
The grant funds will be put to use extending over two years and positions the SDPWF, a non-profit, independent support organization for the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, to leverage an additional $1 million in private and public donations for the total project budget of $5 million.