Stower Seven Lakes Trail

Elroy-Sparta Trail

Chippewa River State Trail

Gandy Dancer Trail

Wisconsin parks volunteers and hunting groups fight DNR cuts

The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks (FWSP) are very concerned over a 28% cut in the 2015-2017 Biennium budget. The cutting of all general purpose tax funding would devastate the Park System. This deep cut would affect the operating practices and services of the Parks. We also have the concerns over the personnel cuts which eliminate most of the Naturalist at our State Parks. These Naturalists are the “heartbeat” of these parks educational program where many of the youth and other parks learn about nature and become regular park users.(Click to read more....)

Friends of Wyalusing State Park

Wyalusing State Park was one of four areas recommended for state park status in 1911, by the Nolan Commission. It formally became a state park in 1917. At that time, it was called Nelson Dewey State Park – named for Wisconsin’s first governor. It was renamed Wyalusing State Park when Nelson Dewey State Park, near Cassville, Wi, became a State Park.
Wyalusing State Park is in the Driftless region of Wisconsin. It is bounded by the Wisconsin River to the north and the Mississippi River to the west. The confluence of these rivers is easily viewed along the Wisconsin and Sentinel Ridge Bluffs. Point Lookout is is located midway between these two bluffs. The lookout is a favorite for everyone coming to the park.
The Friends of Wyalusing was formed in the late 1990’s. The organization had 16 members. Since its inception, the mission of the Friends of Wyalusing is dedicated to supporting and enhancing the visitor experience by enhancing the connection between nature and the park visitor. Today, there are eight active members and a little more than 80 members on the roll.
The Friends of Wyalusing made their presence known as “big Stinky” met its demise in 2001. The removal of Wisconsin’s largest open-pit toilet became a national event. The Friends of Wyalusing had its most successful T-shirt sales ever. Quite literally, a truck load of t-shirts were sold as a fund raiser. The Friends of Wyalusing made a cleaning that year.
The Friends of Wyalusing also played a part in Wisconsin’s Centennial celebration of its Park system. Hundreds of people came to the park to see the launching of four hot air balloons. One of the balloons was a huge Smoky Bear. A decade later, the Friends group celebrates Smokey’s birthday. Smokey Bear leads children and adults around Wisconsin Ridge Campground inviting one and all to the birthday party held at the Peterson Picnic Shelter. Smokey rides in the back of the Park’s electric vehicle. Children decorate their bicycles. The Friends of Wyalusing, organize the event which ends with games, stories birthday cake and ice cream.
The Spirits of Wyalusing Past is the culmination of events by the Friends of Wyalusing. Interesting, colorful, historical tidbits of the area are presented by ‘Spirits of Wyalusing Past’. The “Spirits” are portrayed by members of The Friends and other volunteers who have talent and a willingness to portray a character.
The “Spirits” are located on the 500 foot bluff, overlooking the night lights of Prairie du Chien, and the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. Families reserve camping spots a year ahead for this event. The event was first held in the late 1990s on or near Halloween. It was moved to the last weekend of September in 2004, because of more favorable weather.
Local scout groups and camping families decorate and carve donated pumpkins. The lighted pumpkins and lighted tiki torches are placed along the .5 mile trail part of which follows the Sentinel Ridge. The Friends of Wyalusing and family members serve as guides. After the walk, home-made treats are served. A silent auction is also held during the event. Each of the items is donated by member of The Friends of Wyalusing. It is not unusual to have over 250 visitors attend this event.
However, due to dwindling members who live close-by, The Friends of Wyalusing have found it very difficult to maintain this program.
During the early 2000’s the Friends of Wyalusing began to operate the concession stand in the east end of the Peterson Picnic Shelter. The concession stand operates during the summer camping season. All of the profits are returned to the park for projects which enhance the visitor experience.
Through Affinity Grant Awards, matching funds and other grants, The Friends of Wyalusing have been able to provide almost all of the information signage, trail signs and nature signs found in the park, including the entrance sign welcoming all to Wyalusing State Park. Informational kiosks, found throughout the park, provide information about invasive species, Friends events, and park happenings.
The Friends group assisted in the purchase of a new flagpole at the visitor contact station.
The Amphitheater, located at the Hugh Harper Indoor Camp, was partially funded by the Friends of Wyalusing. A fireplace insert, located in the fireplace of the Nature center, provides warmth to campers and park visitors during cool damp days thanks to the Friends group. The Friends of Wyalusing also provided funds for the major rehab of the Paul Lawrence Interpretive Center.
The Friends of Wyalusing through matching grants, paid for completely rewiring the Peterson Picnic Shelter, Nature Center, and the Concession stand in 2014. The Friends of Wyalusing are very thankful for the 1000’s of people who visit the park, and stop by the concession stand to purchase items, rent canoes or kayaks, or drop off donations.
In 2014, The Friends of Wyalusing, helped with the rededication of the Passenger Pigeon monument.
This year, 2015, the Friends of Wyalusing State Park along with shared grants are funding a new playground at Homestead Picnic area.  In addition to the Homestead campground, The Friends of Wisconsin State Park will be sponsoring a 5K Fun run in June. Donations from this event will go towards our most challenging plans – A nature center connected to the visitor center. We hope to break ground for this in 2017.
One of the most note-worthy projects that the Friends of Wyalusing has undertaken is the creation of the Endowment Fund. The Friends of Wyalusing was the very first Friends group to start an Endowment Fund for a State Park. When asked about the meaning of the Endowment Fund for the future, Kathy Paske, Secretary of Friends of Wyalusing said, “The park is a special place in many different respects--historical, geographical, diverse flora and fauna and spiritual to name a few. We want to make sure future Friends have the means to continue our conservation and education efforts.”
We are hopeful that a shower building and bathrooms will become a reality this year for Homestead Campgrounds.
The website  - features interactive maps, 100’s of photos, 10’s of videos, and information formatted for Web-enabled devices.

Rock Island Friends–Volunteer Weekend

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The Rock Island Friends are looking for volunteers to help clean up Rock Island State Park on May 16 & 17, 2015.. Free Overnight camping for volunteers. S’more party is Saturday Night. The Park boat leaves Jackson Harbor Saturday, 9:00 A.M.
Please rsvp Colleen Andrews at to reserve a spot on the boat. Bring a lunch and dress for all types of weather.  Also bring drinking water and work gloves.

50th Anniversary of Rail Trails in Wisconsin

June 6, 2015
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the rail trails program in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is very proud to claim the Elroy- Sparta as the first rail trail purchase in the nation. This was the beginning of the great Wisconsin Trail System which now consists of 41 state trails. Friends of Wisconsin State Parks (FWSP) are partnering the WDNR Parks bureau to organize events to celebrate the 50th Anniversary this year.
There will be a celebration at the Elroy - Sparta Trail on Saturday – June 6, 2015 beginning at 2pm. Leading up to the 2:00 pm event, there will be riders from each community along the Elroy-Sparta joining in a ride towards the trail headquarters in Kendall. FWSP invites other trail Friends Groups to organize celebrations for this event as well on June 6th and to have a simultaneous ride or walk on all of the trails beginning at 1:00 pm. This date is also the first day of Wisconsin’s Free Fun Weekend when trail pass fees, vehicle admission stickers and ATV/UTV registration sticker requirements are waived for Wisconsin State Parks, Forests and Trails. If this doesn't fit your schedule please consider organizing a 50th anniversary event on another date during 2015 or co-branding an existing event.
Other ideas to consider:
  • Organize a trail ride for Friends members and the public to publicize the 50th Anniversary during the summer/fall season
  • Hold a triathlon, 5K run/walk, a trail “Open House”, a guided hike/ interpretive hike, or organize a work project along the trail to celebrate/commemorate 50 years of trails in Wisconsin.
  • There will be a logo for the 50th celebration and posters and a commemorative emblem that will be available to post along the trail and to promote this 50th Anniversary for the trail system throughout the state – consider putting one along your trail.
  • Consider using the 50th Anniversary logo for t-shirts or other merchandise that your group may have printed this year. The logo will be available soon.
Please have your Friends Group help celebrate this great event in 2015!
Happy Trails,
Bill Zager
President of Friends of Wisconsin State Parks

For the Birds

The Great Wisconsin BirdathonThe state’s leading bird conservation organizations encourage Friends Group organizations to use the online Great Wisconsin Birdathon as an easy and engaging tool for fundraising and friend-raising. They established this annual event in 2012 to help create a rising tide of support for Wisconsin’s birds and those who work on their behalf.
The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin processes all Birdathon donations and sends each participating organization 50% of the funds they raise. The balance supports eight statewide bird conservation projects through the Bird Protection Fund.
The Great Wisconsin Birdathon website – – is now open for business. Birding teams can conduct their Birdathon during any portion of a 24-hour period from April 15 – June 15.
The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is more about fun and education, and less about competition. It is also a nice way to survey bird use of state parks, natural areas and wildlife areas; attract new people to the cause; and create an interesting story for media attention.
Here are the simple instructions for conducting a Birdathon:
  1. Form a team (or teams) of one or more people. Come up with a creative name and pick a date for your Birdathon.
  2. Set up a team page at People will go there to read about your Birdathon plans and to pledge or donate.
  3. Complete the organization information form in the Participant Kit and mail it to the Birdathon Coordinator.
  4. Direct your members, contacts, and community to go to your team page to either pledge per species or donate a set amount.
  5. Do your Birdathon!
  6. Report your results on your team page and submit your checklist to the Birdathon Coordinator.
  7. Thank your donors and keep them connected to your organization year-round.
The Birdathon does all the rest! They handle all the money and record-keeping. You receive a check from them for half of your proceeds. You also retain a spreadsheet of your donor contact information that you access through your team page. Your donors will receive a monthly Bird News You Can Use e-newsletter from the Birdathon year-round.
Madison Audubon Society has raised $5,000-$10,000 through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon annually by getting up to 10 teams out at various properties. They do a friendly competition between teams to make it fun. The Faville Grove team found several new species at their property that had not been reported there before, so this annual snapshot of bird presence has conservation value, as well.
A 4-H member in Mt. Horeb does her annual Birdathon from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday, taking a break to sleep. She invites friends and family over for a celebratory barbecue lunch on Sunday, and has presented her Birdathon findings at the Wisconsin State Fair.
Be as ambitious and creative as you want to be. Your team page allows for social media, photos, blogs, you name it. Have fun!
Questions? Peruse the Great Wisconsin Birdathon website and find the Organizational Fundraising tab. Contact Birdathon Coordinator Diane Packett at for more information.

Wisconsin parks volunteers and hunting groups fight DNR cuts

Friends of Wisconsin State Parks
2015/2017 Budget Concerns
 The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks (FWSP) are very concerned over a 28% cut in the 2015-2017 Biennium budget.  The cutting of all general purpose tax funding would devastate the Park System.    This deep cut would affect the operating practices and services of the Parks.  We also have the concerns over the personnel cuts which eliminate most of the Naturalist at our State Parks.  These Naturalists are the “heartbeat” of these parks educational program where many of the youth and other parks learn about nature and become regular park users.
The loss of all Stewardship funding would also be detrimental to the Park System.  FWSP has the position, that at times there are land purchases that are in everyone’s best interest.   A property adjacent to an existing park or an extension of an existing trail should be allowed.  Matching funds are many times available to help with these purchases also. 
The heading to self sufficiency is a noble cause, but cannot be accomplished in the present year.  A cut of $ 4.6 million to the Parks budget makes it so Parks could not function at the user’s expectations.    The items needed to make Parks sustainable are 3 fold.  The Fee increase needs to be approved, spending authority within the department needs to be approved and the general purpose revenue needs to be partially restored.
There are other alternatives being discussed for generating revenues for State Parks.  FWSP is in favor of incorporating Corporate donations and these are already in practice for Park improvements, but there is not a mechanism in place to make it work for day to day operating costs at this time.  FWSP does accept corporate donations and uses these funds for State property promotion and improvements.   FWSP is not in favor of selling naming rights to State properties.  
FWSP through our local Friends groups donated over $540,000 and nearly 187,000 volunteer hours to the State Park Properties. Much of this money is raised through the gift shops, firewood sales and other concession items.  This revenue stream would be eliminated if general concessionaires are allowed in the State Parks, and FWSP is not in favor of this practice.
Please plan to attend the Joint Committee on Finance Public Hearing in your area; this is an important part of the budget process.  Also contact your local Assemblyperson and Senator and voice your concerns about the urgency of this issue.
Thank you,
Bill Zager
Pres. FWSP