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Biennial Budget: State Parks with Private Sponsors?

Paul Weimer, Flickr
Amnicon Falls State Park in northern Wisconsin.


There’s a chance your favorite state park could someday be “brought to you by” a private company.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is considering selling naming rights. The DNR secretary admitted the possibility during a legislative budget committee meeting Tuesday.

Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget proposal would eliminate state funding for Wisconsin’s parks. Instead, the DNR would boost admission and camping fees.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach grilled Stepp over the possibility of selling naming rights, in order to raise revenue.

Erpenbach: “Is it something you feel you’re going to have to do, since you’re not going to fund state parks?”

Stepp: “Well, first of all, it’s not that we’re not funding them, I mean we’re changing this over to an increase in fees, so that’s one thing I guess it’s important that we clarify. But again, all ideas are on the table when we talk about different ways in how it is that we can create more enthusiasm and monetary support throughout our state parks system.”

Erpenbach pushed Stepp further.

Erpenbach: “How much would you charge, for example, to buy the naming rights to Devil’s Lake State Park?”

Stepp: “Senator, it’s very premature to talk about that, I mean we haven’t done any kind of studies yet to find out what that would be like, but again that’s all part of the discussions that we can have over the next two years.”

Erpenbach: “Any corporations approach you yet on buying naming rights?”

Stepp: “They have not.”

Erpenbach also asked Stepp whether the DNR is considering selling parks land, to make up for budget cuts. She says that option is not on the table, and added that the legislature would have to approve any such sales. But Stepp says the DNR could sell naming rights without lawmakers’ OK.

Ann-Elise is WUWM's news director.
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