This will generate Open Graph meta tags for t

Welcome to Wisconsin, home of the first State Park

I like this story, as it was told to me:

Wisconsin was the first state to have something called a state park. It was 1878 and they called it The State Park. It didn't work out perfectly because it was the era when 'Lumber Barons' where quickly buying up land to cut down trees. The State Park land fed the hungry paper mills that built the late 19th century economy.

So the legislature created an act asking the governor to consider purchasing and protecting a piece of land they had their eye on in Polk County. It was a nice parcel on the St. Croix River. In 1900 Interstate Park was founded.

In 1907, the legislature  hired John Nolen to further scout the natural features of the state. A fellow named Longenecker was a horticulturalist at UW-Madison and Nolen asked him for advice. Longenecker put together a list of five suggested sites. 

John Nolen knew there wasn't money for five, so he put forward a recommendation of four. His feasibility study guided the creation of the Wisconsin State Park System. We also got three parks and one natural area: 

  1. The Dells of the Wisconsin River
  2. Devil's Lake
  3. Fish Creek in Door County, now called Peninsula State Park
  4. Where the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers meet, now called Wyalusing State Park.

Each and every park requires an act of the Wisconsin Legislature to become a park (or recreation area). They are then maintained by the Department of Natural Resources. Only three on Nolen's list, from Longenecker's list of five, became state parks. The Dells didn't make the cut, but did become a State Natural Area in 2005.

Now, 115 years after Interstate State Park, there are 66 state park units (parks and rec areas). More than 60,500 acres. 

I was told this story by a former UW-Extension agent. It was shared as an example of the Wisconsin Idea: The university professor (Longenecker) was asked to put his expertise to use in helping the state to make decisions. 

You know I love parks. I want to get to a place with a clean sight-line often. I need fresh, living green to restore my senses and make me feel whole.

And I want all of this to be accessible, easy to get to, part of an urban landscape. Because I'm not the only one who needs the parks. My kids need them, all kids need them, and their grand-kids will need them, too.

As part of his 2015-17 state budget, Walker is proposing to remove all general-purpose revenue to operate Wisconsin state parks, trails and recreation areas — a cut of $4.6 million, or nearly 28 percent, of their current $16.7 million operational budget, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

-Wisconsin State Journal article, Feb. 17, 2015

Shame on any government that wants to weaken our parks. All over the world, in war-torn places, places with greedy dictators and corrupted economies, people dream of a day when their homeplace is stable enough to have a park system like ours. Once the infrastructure is broken, rebuilding it is a heavy, daunting improbability.

Cherokee Marsh is owned jointly by the City of Madison and the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1976. All these photos were taken in the North Unit of Cherokee Marsh in February 2015.

1 comment:

  1. Nice pictures. Nice story. Walker is an embarrassment to Wisconsin.