State parks are being hit by a wave of retiring employees, and it’s causing some staffing shortages throughout Wisconsin.
“The staffers basically do everything,” said Bernie Kempen, a camp host at High Cliff State Park. “It’s lawn-cutting, it’s brush pickup.”
The State Parks System says the volume of people reaching retirement age in our parks, along with years of accumulated paid time off, has slowed the process of filling vacancies.
“Over the last three years, we had a maintenance person, they had a supervisor, and they had a manager that retired,” he said. “And of those three, so far they’ve only replaced the supervisor.”
And from there, it can sometimes feel like a game of whack-a-mole.
“They’re going to fill the supervisor position, they’re going to fill the manager position,” said Kempen. “But now, unfortunately, in filling that supervisor position the guy who’s the ranger here is moving into that.”
In the latest budget, Governor Evers increased the spending authority of the State Parks System by $1.4 million.
And right now, managers are trying to fill about 30 jobs at parks throughout the state.
“When they talk about state parks or whatever, they just go, ‘Yeah, that’s a waste of our tax dollars,'” he said. “But no, this is Wisconsin. This is what there should be.”
Several jobs at High Cliff are limited-time positions and low unemployment rates are making those jobs take longer to fill.
But regardless of your motivations, any and all help is welcomed.
“Well, we’re always looking for volunteers,” said Kempen. “If you like the outdoors and you want to be out there and be part of it, this is the way to do it.”
Change may also be coming to High Cliff’s picnic area near the observation tower.
Efforts are underway to replace the old playground.