State of the Parks: About this project

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


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.


Kate Golden/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Campgrounds getting more electric

This 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


Erin Luhmann/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

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.


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.

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