Published On: Thu, Jun 29th, 2017

National Park Service has plenty of ideas about Goat Island

VERMILLION, S.D. — After more than 20 years in the making, area residents will finally be able to return to a once-popular island attraction for camping and recreational use.
Goat Island, a four-mile island nestled directly on the dividing river channel between South Dakota and Nebraska is the most recent acquisition by the National Park Service from the Federal Bureau of Land Management.

Rick Clark, Superintendent of the Missouri National Recreational River, talks with about 20 river enthusiasts who toured Goat Island Saturday.

Prior to the Federal Bureau of Land Management’s acquisition of the island, ownership of the property had been long disputed.
Superintendent of the Missouri National Recreational River Rick Clark said a management plan may be drafted as early as October 2018.
Clark said the plan will likely include the logistics of turning the island into a camping spot and clearing out the overgrown brush covering most of the land. Clark said controlled brush fires will likely be the approach the park will take to clean things up, but would like to see the island remain as wild as they can manage.
“We want to leave it in its natural state,” Clark told a group of kayakers touring the island Saturday.
Though the planning stage has still yet to begin, Clark said the hope for the island is to be open to the public for camping, hiking and possibly fishing and hunting.
He said the park will likely sell permits to keep track of activity and interest in using the island.
Since Goat Island’s unique position splits it almost evenly between the two states, Clark said the trickiest part about getting it ready is complying with two sets of state laws. Since the island predates the statehoods of both Nebraska and South Dakota, neither can lay a claim on it and the park will have to look into working with both state regulations.
“We want to avoid conflicts and for everyone to have a voice,” Clark said. “This is something we’re going to have to look into.”
Goat Island has historically never had an official owner, and was used by the public for much of the 20th century for recreational use, as well as grazing land for cattle. The island’s unofficial name derives from a goat farmer named Norman Jacobs, who once claimed ownership of it, though he never held any legal ownership.
The island continued to be used, albeit far less, after the federal government claimed ownership, as evidenced by the sand volleyball net set up on one of the beaches and a homemade zip line on the western side.
Clark said he hopes the upcoming preparations will be able to make using the island safer, including possibly allowing hunting licenses to contain a small deer population.
Carie Schneider, Yankton, said she would like to come back to the island and use it in the future, but she’s concerned with being able to access the island.
“I don’t own a boat or anything, so people like me would probably be screwed if there wasn’t a ferry service or something,” Schneider said. “It’s a beautiful island, and I’d love to come back.”
Clark said it’s too early to make any promises, but would like to open the island up as much as they can. He said the park has been working for almost two decades to get Goat Island into the public domain, and he’s looking forward to seeing how it will be utilized.
“This has been a long time in the making,” Clark said.