As state funding for parks shrinks, friends groups at many parks have filled in budget gaps by raising private funds. Devil's Lake State Park, April, 2013. Erin Luhmann / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
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With taxpayer funding for Wisconsin’s state parks slowly shrinking, parks are increasingly reliant on revenue from visitors, and donated money and time from volunteer groups. This project, which examines the impact of this shifting fiscal picture, was produced by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in collaboration with a UW-Madison reporting class taught by Professor Deborah Blum.


Camping with electricity at Lake Kegonsa State Park, southeast of Madison.
Kate Golden / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Campgrounds getting more electricThis summer, Wisconsin’s state park campgrounds will complete the largest expansion of electric sites in decades — a response to growing demands from campers and to economic pressures.
Sidebar: Wisconsin parks system overview



Bailout or bonus?
With budgets tight, Wisconsin State Parks are increasingly relying on donated time and money from volunteer groups known as Friends of the Wisconsin State Parks.
‘Crown jewels’ sustain state parks
A small number of popular Wisconsin state parks are subsidizing dozens of money-losing properties across the parks and recreation system.

Interactive Maps

Explore maps showing all the properties in the state park system, the campground upgrades, and which parks are profitable.

Reporting this project: UW-Madison students Nora Hertel, Erin Luhmann, Andria Casey, Rebecca Smith, Molly Reppen, Bess Donoghue, Martha Kelash, Elizabeth Gaggioli, Maggie DeGroot, Mark Bennett, Jake Wolter, Emily Eggleston, Jeff Cartwright, Eric Lima-Limon, Joe Nistler and Center reporter Kate Prengaman.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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