Our State Parks in Perspective?

I was out on the Sunset Bike Trail blowing leaves this week and while walking the trail I noticed several signs nicely repainted and/or added for improved navigation. It made me think about the similar tasks I needed to complete on my 1 acre property. I can only imagine the list of tasks like this for a 3,776 acre park and trying to determine prioritization to meet needs of millions of visitors, each one wanting something different.

It’s easy to bike the trail and rather than notice repainted or replaced signs, I am quicker to notice deteriorated park maps. I think this goes for much of how we interpret the work done in our State Parks. We can sometimes be quicker to judge what poor shape some things are in rather than focusing our attention on where things are being improved and the users they impact.

Many times the easy answer is just more money from the government. But what if we first reset our perspective? At the very foundation, these lands are preserved and protected for diverse habitats and made accessible for our use and enjoyment. From there, various uses are supported based on what visitors value and appreciate. So if we start from that foundation of thought and proactively determine what we value in our park right now, we can then think about what we can do to ensure it stays a well-maintained asset.

Maybe we can offer volunteer hours or join a partner organization, or maybe all we have time for is simply sharing positive experiences with others to grow appreciation for what we value so that they may value it to. This appreciation is the ripple to investment. So what is it that you value in your state park and what can you do to show your appreciation? I value the Sunset Bike Trail in Peninsula State Park and, while Rangers and staff have many tasks to be completed for this upcoming season, I’ve enjoyed taking on the task of clearing fall leaves so the trail is in good shape for upcoming summer traffic.

Rachel Stollenwerk

Fish Creek, Wisconsin