The Friends of Governor Dodge State Park Equestrian Committee held their fourth annual Poker Ride/Hike fundraiser at the park on June 3, with over 80 participants in attendance who explored a marked trail while collecting poker chips that were then traded in at the end of the ride for a poker hand.

The top three hands were awarded cash prizes. This year’s first place winner was 9-year-old Megan Fargen of Lone Rock, riding her Quarter pony, Gorgeous George. This was Megan’s third year participating in the event. She also enjoyed the group’s Horsin’ Around Kids Camp fundraisers in 2015 and 2016.

The second-place winner was Cheryl Tersen, New Berlin, and in third place was Gina Barden of Fitchburg.

Participants bid on a wide array of silent auction items. Thanks to the generous support of sponsors and participants, this year’s event raised just over $7,000.

A very special part of the event was the Friends official announcement of plans to build a new 21-site Trails End equestrian campground in the park. The current 11-site campground was intended to be a “temporary fix” until the campground envisioned in the park’s 1984 Master Plan could be built.  

Now, after more than 30 years, horseback riders at Governor Dodge can finally look forward to a beautiful new campground that will live up to the beauty of the park’s 25 miles of horse trails. The group’s goal is to begin construction in the summer of 2020, but to make that happen everyone’s help is needed to raise the necessary funds. 

The Friends group has set a fundraising goal of $750,000  to cover the campground’s estimated $650,000 project cost as well as an endowment fund to ensure that future repairs and maintenance needs can always be covered.  

The fund drive got off to a great start with the presentation on June 3 of a gift of almost $70,000 from the Iris Cooley estate. This generous gift was presented in a brief ceremony following the poker ride by Wisconsin State Horse Council’s Equine Foundation representative Gail Seasor.  

Construction of the new Trails End Campground at Governor Dodge State Park will benefit trail riders from all over Wisconsin and will allow many more to enjoy the beauty of the park’s horse trails each year. The 21 well-spaced sites and shared gathering spaces will enjoy a scenic location on the quiet north side of the park.

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