The State Park System is a crown jewel of Wisconsin and a source of pride for many Wisconsinites. The Wisconsin State Park system consists of 103 properties, State Parks, Forests, Recreation Areas and the Aldo Leopold Legacy Trail System (State Parks System). Many of these properties are directly managed and operated by WDNR and the rest are operated in a cooperative agreements with other agencies. According to a recent study by the University of Wisconsin, these properties have over a $1 Billion impact on the State of Wisconsin annual economy.
The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks (FWSP) are very concerned the changes in funding for the State Parks System (SPS) contained in the Governors' proposed budget . The SPS has been heading to self sufficiency in recent years through the budget process and last biennium budget was approximately 28% supported by general tax dollars. To our knowledge 2015-2017 biennium budget is proposed at 0% support from general tax dollars. This cut would be devastating to the whole SPS, unless the proposed user fee increases are allowed. The fee increase would be a funding source that would help offset this drastic 28% cut, additional revenue from other sources may also be needed. The $25 annual residents park sticker price has not been increased in 7 years and proposed to go to $28 annually. Wisconsin residents are the owners of these properties, and it is in the best interest of each and every resident to keep these properties and infrastructure in good operating condition. If these properties and services are not maintained at a satisfactory level, users will not return and this will affect the $1 billion impact these properties have on the annual Wisconsin economy. The SPS is one large system and promoted as such. The proposed cuts not only impact the State run properties, but also the cooperatively run properties.
The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks, "Work to Preserve, Protect, Promote and Enhance Wisconsin's beautiful state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas." FWSP along with our 80 local associated Friends groups are willing to do what we can to help keep these State Properties stay up and running, The much appreciated interpretive programs at the State Parks are also a vital part of this mission. You are welcome to stay abreast with FWSP activities at http://friendswiparks.blogspot.com
FWSP are not opposed to having corporate sponsors. This is a model FWSP has been working on for a couple of years and American Transmission Company is a sponsor. This is a model that we learned about and other states are using. This is information that is being shared through the development of a National Friends of State Parks. FWSP is not in favor of naming rights of parks by corporations, but are willing to take their support through other ways. FWSP, through our Local Friends groups last year donated over $540,000 to State Parks projects. The majority of this money is raised through gift shops, concessions and firewood sales. If concessioners are allowed in State Parks much of the Local Friends revenue stream would go away. The Friends operate with mostly volunteer help and 100% of profits go to the local Parks projects and promotions. A private vendor would need to drastically increase sales to offer the same value to the parks as they would be having labor costs and private profits. This would have to be looked at seriously if it would be a net gain for the State Park System.
If you have feelings on this critical issue, please contact your local Wisconsin State Senator or Assembly person and state your concerns.