Wisconsin to state parks: ‘You’re on your own’

There was quite a display of the night-and-day difference between Wisconsin and Minnesota up north today.

In Vermilion, political rivals celebrated the groundbreaking of the first new state park in 30 years.

Minnesota lawmakers agreed to buy the land from U.S. Steel in 2008 for about $30 million and it’ll cost about $500,000 a year to keep it going.

Meanwhile, across the border, Wisconsin state park fans are aghast this week after lawmakers voted to end taxpayer funding of state parks.

A committee yesterday approved higher fees than those suggested by Gov. Scott Walker, doubling the cost of electricity at a campsite to $10 a night, and jacking up campsite fees to $20 from $15 for state residents each night, nonresidents campaign permits would jump from from $17 to $25 per night, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The operations budget for state parks would decline by $1.1 million to $15.6 million next year. About two dozen state park jobs would be eliminated.

The Milwaukee Business Journal suggested today that the increase cost of using Wisconsin state parks could discourage tourism, particularly from Iowa and Illinois.

Earlier this year, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp told lawmakers she’d seek additional funding from the private sector, possibly in exchange for naming rights to some state properties. A legislative committee this week voted down a proposal to ban selling naming rights for Wisconsin state parks.