MADISON - Opportunities to explore and enjoy more than 200 publicly owned properties encompassing more than 500,000 acres in locations all across Wisconsin will be enhanced thanks to a $5 million investment in improvements over the next two years.
"The legislature recognized the need to invest in properties the state already owns but has not been able to improve since they were purchased," said Scott Gunderson, executive assistant for the Department of Natural Resources. "They designated an additional $7 million in Stewardship bonding to fund these projects in the current two year state budget, with $5 million designated for currently undeveloped properties and $2 million for adding to the number of electric sites in state park campgrounds and some additional smaller projects."
The Conservation Infrastructure Development Initiative improvements will include new access roads, parking lots, and signage.
"There are a number of public properties that are not signed so it is easy to miss them," said Steve Miller, director of DNR's facilities management bureau. "They may have limited access due to rough or no roads or do not have parking lots. We'll change that. We will be improving existing roads, constructing new gravel surfaced roads and gravel surfaced small parking lots so citizens from birders to hikers, from hunters to anglers, can enjoy the lands they own."
Eleven state parks -- Big Foot Beach, Blue Mound, Bong, Buckhorn, Hartman Creek, Interstate, Lake Kegonsa, Kohler-Andrae, Point Beach, Rocky Arbor and Roche-A-Cri,- are developing plans to add up to 66 new or upgraded electrified camping sites with work beginning this spring as soon as contracts can be finalized. Another seven parks -- High Cliff, Peninsula, Wildcat Mountain, Kettle Moraine North and South, Yellowstone Lake and Devil's Lake -- will tentatively add 338 upgraded or new electric sites with work beginning in fall 2012.
"Wisconsin has an amazing variety and wealth of public lands," said Miller. "The goal of this effort is to help people get out and enjoy them. We hope to enhance access to DNR owned lands."
When finished, Miller says there will be an additional 294 improved or new parking areas and another 90 miles of improved or new access roads and another 1,220 property and boundary signs to help citizens identify and enjoy public lands.
Sites to be improved were identified by local DNR land management staff through a screening process that whittled down an estimated $12 million in needed improvements to the budgeted $5 million. Where possible, the work will be bid out to local contractors and businesses.
Gunderson feels that efficiencies in the bidding process will provide enough savings over initial estimates to allow additional projects from the "cut" list to be included in the final project tally. "This is a great opportunity to get out and explore," said Gunderson, "these are the public's lands and are there to enjoy."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Gunderson - 608-267-9521 or Steve Miller - 608-266-5782