The Work Must Go On

The Work Must Go On

On Feb, 5th a National Park Service press release said that the National Parks maintenance backlog reached $11.9 billion! Still as they said in the release, “Deferred maintenance is necessary work”. It’s still got to get done. While people on whatever side of an issue argue, debate, justify & pontificate… On the ground, the work still needs to get done. The grass still grows, the trails still need clearing, trees to be cut, brush to be removed and on and on it goes!

It’s the same at Wisconsin’s State Parks including our most popular park, Devil’s Lake State Park. In Wisconsin, on May 7th, 2015, the legislature’s budget committee voted to cut tax support of the parks ($4.6 million that goes to the state parks and trails annually) and instead raise users fees. Of course, many people familiar with the issue doubt this will work and things will probably get worse before they get better.

So here’s the thing. We need to address funding and the politics, but we can’t let things go in the meantime. When it comes to maintaining our parks, the solutions have to be found in an energised and caring friends group, dedicated, hard-working volunteers and a knowledgeable staff who find creative ways to make up the differences while taking the lead and not surrendering to apathy. I mean, that’s always the trick isn’t it? We can be faced will all sorts of headwinds, but if people care, really care, they seem to always find a way. Isn’t it your experience when you travel, that you can always tell a park that is loved? It’s obvious. Somehow the work gets done even if the people on the ground have to beg, borrow and steal to do it.

I’m reminded of the old quote attributed to Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  I would certainly encourage everyone who cares about their parks to be active in caring. Donations are great of course, but hands are better. Join your park’s “Friends” groups or volunteer for special activities & events or through other organizations. Take ownership in your parks and natural areas. If you see things not getting done, speak up, raise a fuss, make the calls, join the leadership, be the squeaky wheel… but also help find solutions. Our parks are our legacy and it will always be the folks on the ground, the ones who take it personally and love their parks, They… YOU will be the ones who will make the difference.

Devil’s Lake Volunteer Form

Disclaimer: The above is the author’s personal opinion (ie me…) and is not the opinion or policy of the wisconsin department of natural resources. However I have discussed these opinions with 3 local raccoons, a fox squirrel and a salamander who hinted that they may in fact, agree with certain provisos in place.
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  1. Joe salemi

    Great points especially the value of hands on volunteerism vs donations. I am inspired to contact the friends groups.
    In addition however, i would like to see a more parsimoneous way of managing DNR resourses. One obvious area would be to reduce the amount of grass designated to be manicured. I see lawn crews transporting machinery and personnel, to cut grass on what appears to be a scheduled basis vs on an “as needed” basis so that vast areas are cut with the same frequency in May and June as in the slow growth months of august and september when cutting is just not needed.
    Also, not all of the grass needs to be prepared as “lawn”. Really, at DLSP, most of grass that is currently manicured does can be let to grow at least some without letting it go completely natural. It may be that some of the grass could be let to grow so that there maybe two or three levels where some is “lawn”, some is longer and so cut only once in a while and then a third level that is left to be more natural but still cut say only once in early spring and then in fall.
    Treating the grass in this way would preserve resources, maintain beauty while retaining all the picnic area we need and perhaps increase habitat for ground mammals and birds.
    Lets just some of the grass grow and allow thise resources to be put to work in other ways.

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