Chili's Baby Back Rib Mountain State Park
Blue Mounds Pet Food Warehouse State Park
Paul Blart: Mall Copper Falls State Park
(Trails open all year, Paul Blart 2 opens in theaters April 17!)
This week, state Department of Natural Resources Secretary Kathy Stepp said her office wouldn't rule out the possibility of selling naming rights for our state parks to corporate sponsors, just like we do with sports stadiums. Miller Park can now be the name of an actual park!
I'll admit that none of my bad corporate pun names are as ridiculous as Bong Recreation Area. Even in our darkest days, the fact that that's the real name of a real state park makes me proud to be a Wisconsinite.
Stepp says there are no active plans to sell naming rights at the moment, so this post may be a bit of an overreaction -- at least it would be if we had a normal government. With a normal government, any decision to find corporate sponsors would be years away. But considering this is the same administration that mere months ago called right-to-work a distraction and said women ultimately had a right to choose, we might be able to take a trip to Governor Dodge Ram State Park by June.
Does it change the beauty and majesty of our parks if every sign has a Pepsi logo? I don't know. All I know is that I am subjected to advertisements hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times a day.
I've come to terms with constant advertising as part of the price I pay for living in modern society. The camping trips I take a couple times every summer are my escape from modern society. No devices, no work emails, no ads -- it's refreshing. I much prefer vacations like that than trips to Vegas or Disney that make normal life seem relaxing in comparison. I'm not sure what this respite is worth, but I'm sure it is worth something.
The DNR has to close a budget hole since Gov. Scott Walker's budget cuts state funding to our parks system. Other ideas come from Sen Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), who has suggested raising fees for out-of-state tourists who want to camp in our parks.
Naming rights, jacking up fees. The DNR cuts that bring us all these fun ideas to sell out our natural resources and alienate tourists is to make up a cut that comes to just $4.7 million a year.
I'm pretty sure those hated Illinois residents put more than that into our local economies over a couple weekends in June. We can't spare $4.7 million for parks when we spend $13.5 million on tourism promotion? With our current budget priorities, we'd rather spend money rehash 35 year old jokes advertising Wisconsin's natural beauty and gutting the funds that preserve Wisconsin's natural beauty.
How much is the average Wisconsinite saving with this parks cut? Well, the $280 million tax cut for the biennium ($140 million a year) is supposed to give the average homeowner the princely sum of $5 a year in tax savings. So let's divide by 5 to figure how many millions of dollars of cuts it takes to lower taxes by one dollar. $140 million divided by 5 equals $28 million.
It takes $28 million in cuts to give the average Wisconsin homeowner $1 in tax relief. That may seem odd, given the fact that Wisconsin has less than 6 million residents, but wealthy people with lots of property end up taking home a massive cut of everyone's property tax relief.
$4.7 million divided by $28 million comes to $.168.
Using Walker's math, cutting state funding for state parks saves the average homeowner 16.8 cents a year. We might sell naming rights to save an amount of money that wouldn't even buy me a gumball at the mall. After three years, that tax relief will barely buy me one side of Plaza Sauce at The Plaza.
I'd gladly give up my nearly 17 cents of savings if it means supporting local businesses across Wisconsin that make money off the tourism game.
Heck, round it up to a dollar if it means I can keep the one weekend a year I get to take a break from advertising.