Wisconsin is poised to shift to a new and unproven model of self-sufficiency for the state’s sprawling state parks system.

According to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report, the changes could include more alliances with the private sector and naming rights at some park venues.

A key legislative committee called for the Department of Natural Resources to rely on traditional sources of cash, such as state park stickers, trail passes and fees paid for campsites, for future funding. It also called for the DNR to conduct a study to explore new revenue streams — but no longer rely on tax dollars.

Nationally, state parks haven’t been able to fund their entire operations with money collected from campers, hikers and other users. Instead, other state park systems have had to tap tax dollars or other sources of public funds, according to data from the National Association of State Parks Directors.

In Wisconsin, 28% of parks operations are currently funded from the state’s general fund, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The system is getting $16.7 million in annual funding of all types.

“Moving to more of a user-based system is very appropriate,” said Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, a member of the Joint Finance Committee that recommended the changes.

“The people who use the service should pay for the service.”

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