State park, camping fees increase as state funding is cut

Thursday, the state's Joint Finance Committee voted to raise camping and state park fees

You’ll have to dig just a little deeper in your wallet to enjoy state parks in Wisconsin.

Thursday, the state’s Joint Finance Committee voted to raise camping and state park fees.

As part of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal he wants to end taxpayer funding for state parks and campgrounds and force them to become self-sufficient.

Bob Buerger is spending his weekend at Perrot State Park in Trempealeau. He said he enjoys camping in state parks and a little price increase won’t change his mind.

“No it really doesn’t as long as the parks can get their act together in terms of improving their park,” Buerger said.

The increases in fees are relatively small. Annual fees will increase by $1, a daily pass will go up by $3, trail passes will be going from $20-$25 and camp fees will increase a few bucks based on where you’re staying.

“I think that this was a happy medium because it wasn’t a dramatic increase, so I think while people are not going to be excited about it, I don’t think that they’re going to be too upset actually,” Rep. Steve Doyle said.

Doyle is concerned that the state doesn’t want to fund state parks anymore because that will put the burden on those using the parks. But private campground owners feel this gives more opportunity to those state parks.

“We’re a little bit excited that the state parks are able to charge what they need to charge. We’ve kind of been wondering all these years, how that all works out because it doesn’t compute, the math doesn’t work, if you will,” said Lori Severson, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners.

Severson, co-owner of Champion Riverside Resort in Galesville, said some private campgrounds do compete with state parks in terms of what they offer, but mostly, state parks and private campgrounds are very different types of camping. So even though state park prices are going up she doesn’t expect her campground to get busier.

“You know I think it wont, I think it will be, I think people will still choose where they want to go,” Severson said.

Another idea from Walker’s budget to help state parks be self-sustaining is by having corporate sponsors. Doyle said he really hopes that that doesn’t happen because he said Wisconsin has a good approach to dealing with conserving lands and selling corporate rights would be very opposite to that history.

The Wisconsin DNR website said there are about 5,000 campsites in the state and about 14 million people visit Wisconsin state parks each year.