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Editorial: Pursue new county attraction

6:53 PM, Jun. 10, 2013  |  Comments
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In the past, the Press-Gazette Media editorial board has encouraged the county to tap its general fund to raze the old mental health center.

The Brown County general fund stood at $22 million earlier this year, which is $4 million more than the upper limit for the fund.

We still believe that's a wise course, but perhaps an even better use of a general fund surplus is to create something new, something that would keep people in Brown County, attract people to the area, have them spend their money here and, possibly, make money for the county, or at least relieve some of the taxpayer obligation.

We're talking about a proposal to build an adventure park at the Brown County Reforestation Camp.

Last week, two committees passed a proposal for the park. It now goes to the County Board, which meets June 19, where 18 of the 26 supervisors would have to approve a one-time expenditure of about $500,000. That money would not be paid back.

The adventure park would include two zip lines that run from the Reforestation Camp's fire tower to near the NEW Zoo entrance next door. The proposal also includes a climbing wall and a ropes course.

This park could serve the general public as well as businesses, schools and youth organizations that could use it as part of confidence-building exercises and outings.

It's also interactive. It's not paying to go somewhere and watch someone else play a sport that you would rather be playing. It would require physical activity and give those who take part a thrill as well as a sense of accomplishment.

It also would attract a demographic that's too old for, or uninterested in, the children's museum or Bay Beach Amusement Park or the zoo, but is looking for something to do. That demographic includes teenagers and young adults - the ones who liked these attractions as kids but are less likely to visit, until they have families of their own.

The proposed park also has the potential to relieve some of the tax burden after the one-time $500,000 cost. The NEW Zoo pays for itself, but county tax dollars support the operation of the Reforestation Camp. If such an attraction would relieve county taxpayers of that financial support, the park would be worth it. If it brought in more money than that, it could be used to offset other costs.

In any case, it has to be self-sustaining, and that will leave county officials to come up with an admission cost that's not too expensive but covers their costs. The $20 entrance fee floated at a news conference would pay for entrance to the adventure park, zoo and the camp. It sounds steep, but it will likely cost less to enter just one of those facilities. In any case, the price needs to be affordable to the majority of county residents and so the park doesn't become a playground for the well-off.

The County Board and residents should hear the details of the plan, but on the surface it looks like one worth pursuing. Brown County deserves kudos for its pursuit of a destination that will keep residents here as well as attract out-of-county visitors to spend money here. Along the way it might expose visitors to other attractions at the Reforestation Camp and NEW Zoo and throughout Brown County.

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