ARE WISCONSIN’S STATE PARKS FOR SALE?
I enjoyed John Gurda’s July 2nd article (The DNR’s small-minded move) regarding the downward spiral of an agency that once championed protection of the state’s environment and preservation of our public lands. As an historian, Gurda is unmatched in his consensus of what has happened within the DNR since the advent of conservative politics has invaded its decision making. One disagreement I have with Gurda is his statement that the public recreational property purchased by the state through the Knowles-Nelson program “will never see a ‘no trespassing sign’” and “that land is our land and can be forever.”
Unfortunately, this is no longer the case as evidenced by Wis. Act 20 passed in 2013 by conservative majority in the legislature which mandated the sale of at least 10,000 acres of DNR public property by June 2017. Though not supported by most Wisconsin citizens or conservation organizations this forced public land sale was at least limited to non- ecological significant parcels located “outside” DNR managed project boundaries.
Now state policy is about to change again with the recent Natural Resource Board’s decision to allow the DNR to amend the master plan for Kohler-Andrae State Park in Sheboygan County. The sole purpose of this move is to allow the DNR to give away several acres “within” the boundaries of this popular state park to the Kohler Company. The company claims it needs the state park lands to accommodate its plan to build a new high end golf course north of the park on their 247 acres of rare Lake Michigan forested and open sand dunes. The state seems determined to grease the wheels in giving Kohler a 99-year lease on publicly-owned state park land and allow them to bulldoze the existing forest flat in order to build their maintenance garage and large parking lot. In addition, Kohler wants to commandeer the park’s only entry road as well to be shared with their golf course customers. This would require building of a large round-about exchange near the state park visitor station and the construction of a major new paved roadway through the park’s dune area to the golf course.
You can be sure once Kohler’s new elite golf course is built “no trespassing” signs will indeed be posted to keep park visitors out of their own public property. This precedent-setting public land give away to big business can only be seen as the start of a “state parks for sale” policy.