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Devil's Lake risks funding to stay open during shutdown

Published On: Oct 06 2013 04:00:32 AM CDT   Updated On: Oct 09 2013 02:45:03 PM CDT

As the federal government shutdown neared the end of its first week, the House approved a measure to give back pay to all furloughed workers once the shutdown is over.

The Senate and President Obama are expected to approve that bill.

Despite the rare show of unity, there isn't any deal in sight to end the shutdown stalemate.

And now those politics in Washington are hitting home in Wisconsin.

Seven state parks, including Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, receive money from the federal government.

But leaders with the Wisconsin DNR have refused the federal government's requests to shut the park down.

That’s a development that pleased Boy Scout Troop 47 from Sun Prairie, who, despite the weekend rain, made their annual trip to Devil’s Lake State Park on Saturday.

Troop 47 is one of about 1,500 Boy and Girl Scout Troops from across the state that come to Baraboo for the annual Scout’s Jamboree.

"It's a fun camp to come to and I was looking forward to it this year," said scout Adam Kanetzke.

But the federal government shutdown almost cancelled the weekend-long celebration because Devil’s lake is one of seven state parks that receive federal funds.

"We had planned this for quite a while," said Hal Sommer of Troop 47. "And if it was shut down at the last minute, we probably wouldn't have been able to do anything this weekend."

Peter Biermeier with the State Parks Department says Devil’s Lake is one of the busiest state parks with almost 2 million visitors each year.

He says the park also generates nearly $2 million in annual revenue.

"On Wednesday this week we received a letter from the National Park Service asking us to close these seven properties that are so valuable to the people of Wisconsin because of the federal shutdown," said Biermeier, Chief of Recreation, Planning and Development at Wisconsin State Parks.

"The feds provide a portion of funding for the seven properties," continued Biermeier. "It's not a very large portion, but it's a valuable portion that we appreciate. It's not significant to the point we'd shut these properties down and close out visitors who want to be there."

But the state's decision to keep the parks open means there's a chance the parks won't get that funding back from the federal government once the shutdown is over.

Biermeier says state leaders are willing to take that chance. And there are at least 10 scouts who are glad they did.

"I'm still happy we were at least able to come here," said Kanetzke.

"We look forward to this," said Sommer. "This is a good opportunity for the scouts to enjoy Devil’s Lake, which is really close to us, and to get a hike in as well."

Among the other six Wisconsin state parks that the federal government requested to be closed: Cross Plains State Park and Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area.

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