At last week's Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) District Leadership meeting, Ben Bergey unveiled the Department of Natural Resource's (DNR's) plan to roll out a demand-based price structure, which he said will roll out on the next week to 10 days. The state parks' system, he said, has seen over 17 million visitors per year in the last two years. This creates very high demand at some recreation sites. That high demand, he said, can cause users to have a less favorable experience and also can lead to safety concerns.
The 2017-2019 budget, Bergey told the WCC, delegated fee setting to authority to the DNR secretary, within certain parameters. The plan created, then, calls for a flexible price structure for recreation areas, with those park user fees earmarked to be reinvested in the State Park System. The new structure, Bergey said, will involve monitoring property usage and managing capacity issues that have been seen in various locations. This will be done to maintain or enhance user experience at state-owned properties. The plan also allowed, he said, for an annual review of the pricing structure.
A number of things will go into determining rates. Those will include campground occupancy rates, weekday versus weekend rates, and whether or not electricity is available. If a campground has an occupancy of over 80 percent, he said, the rate would go up. For a location with an occupancy of less than 30 percent, rates would decrease. He likened this to hotel pricing structures with which most consumers are familiar. Daily admissions, he said, can be changed as well, although Wisconsin senior daily admission and annual vehicle admission rates cannot change.
It is hoped the demand-based price structure will address some issues of property attendance and help to manage capacities, some of which have created health and safety concerns in the past. A small increase in a rate at a particularly high-use property, he said, may convince some campers to check out a different property, perhaps one close by they had never visited.
Bergey said the new structure should also improve user experience. He also said there would be no change in rates to more than 70 properties statewide. The new plan, he said, will roll out to the public within the next few weeks. He expected positive results from the new system.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at email@example.com.