When future park goers exit off Highway 12 in central Wisconsin, making their way into Devil Lake's State Park, the state's busiest with more than 1.2 visitors annually who come to enjoy its quartzite bluffs rising above a 360-acre lake, they could be welcomed by some odd signage.
"Your visit to Devil's Lake State Park courtesy of Johnsonville Sausages' Beddar with Cheddar."
This could be the future if Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has his way.
Wisconsin's 46 state parks, 14 state trails, four recreational areas, and two national scenic trails, could end up resorting to corporate sponsorships in order to pay the bills.
Walker's recent biennial budget proposal axes almost a third of the parks' $16.7 operating budget.
As a result, state parks would be forced to operate mainly on revenue from fees.
Other casualties of Walker's plan would be a 13-year freeze on land conservation purchases and the state Department of Natural Resource's policy-making citizens' board would be stripped of any meaningful authority to act in the system's best interests.
Instead, it would merely function as an advisory board.
The governor has proposed a jack in campsite and entrance fees to make up for the loss of tax revenue.
However, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp now says the state will consider private sector partnerships and selling naming rights to corporate sponsors to make up the difference.
Corporate names attached to state parks is not without precedent. In Virginia, for instance, North Face's logo adorns trail signs.
Officials from Friends of Wisconsin State Parks, a non-profit organization made up of volunteers working to preserve, protect, and enhance the state's park system, said recently they're not opposed to corporate sponsorships but are against "naming rights of parks by corporations."
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