- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin state park use this year is on track to be higher than average, despite fee increases that were imposed to offset the withdrawal of tax support.

The number of camping registrations and nights camped in 2016 through Friday was greater than in any year since 2008 except for last year’s record, the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/2ff3azV ) reported.

The Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker ended tax support for the parks system and increased fees as part of a two-year budget, which began in July 2015, in hopes that the parks would be self-sustaining with greater income from user fees and private sponsorships.

Prior to the change, tax dollars for the system had decreased since 1995 when the Legislature stopped requiring park operations to be funded equally by fees and the general fund.

This year, there have been nearly 160,000 camping registrations and more than 386,000 nights camped for state parks, recreation areas and southern forests.

State parks section chief Chris Pedretti said park usage is highly dependent on weekend weather, gas prices and the overall economy. He said 2016 has been a mostly good year by those measures.

Pedretti said park officials haven’t experienced many people complaining about the higher fees.

“I don’t think we saw a real big pushback,” Pedretti said.

Bill Zager, president of the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks, said he is concerned needed maintenance in the parks will be delayed longer while the state does what it can to stretch out its budget reserves.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

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