Corporate sponsorships of sports venues and events of all kinds are nothing new, but the trend could reach a new level in Wisconsin. The head of the state's Department of Natural Resources says her agency may consider selling naming rights for Wisconsin's state parks as a way to cover expenses.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker's two-year budget proposal would eliminate all state funding for Wisconsin's state parks system, so the money to keep operating would need to come from other sources, such as user fees.
Wisconsin's DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp told a legislative committee Tuesday her agency will consider selling naming rights or corporate sponsorships for various parks, the Wisconsin State Journal reports, to help make up for the shortfall.
Wisconsin has 46 state parks, 14 state trails, four recreational areas and two national scenic trails. Eight state forests are funded separately but included as part of Wisconsin's park system.
Tax revenue makes up $4.7 million, or nearly 28 percent, of the current $16.7 million state parks budget, the State Journal notes. Those funds would be eliminated under Walker's proposal, but entrance and camping fees would be increased to help offset some of the cuts. There would still be a gap of $1.1 million a year, according to the paper.
Stepp, a Walker appointee, noted the issue will be studied for the next two years before any decisions are made.
She added that no entities have come forward to ask about naming rights or sponsorships, and that the DNR is not considering selling any park land to make up for the budget cuts, WUWM News reports.
More than 15 million people used Wisconsin's state parks in 2014, according to the DNR.
A few other states have pursued corporate partnerships for their park systems, but the proceeds have not been enough to pay for the parks' upkeep, according to the State Journal.
Legislators of both parties also questioned other aspects of Walker's DNR budget proposal, including his plan to strip the citizen-member Natural Resources Board of its policy-making authority and turn it into an advisory body only.
Democrats see it as an attempt by Walker to take more control over the agency.
Walker's proposal would also eliminate 66 positions in the DNR and stop conservation land purchases for the next 13 years.