State News

Evers re-opens 34 parks, forests, recreational areas with restrictions

As Wisconsin continues to enforce social distancing guidelines, Gov. Tony Evers ordered for several state parks, forests and recreational areas to be re-opened with limitations. 

As Wisconsin continues to enforce social distancing guidelines, Gov. Tony Evers ordered for several state parks, forests and recreational areas to be re-opened with limitations. 

Image By: Courtesy of Tom Gill

Gov. Tony Evers directed the Department of Natural Resources to re-open 34 state parks, forests and recreational areas Tuesday for the beginning of May under special conditions as temperatures rise across the state. 

Evers’ move comes three weeks after he ordered the DNR to close 40 of the state’s most visited parks and forests due “to unprecedented crowds, litter, vandalism” and to adhere to social distancing guidelines in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

“Amid the immense uncertainty of this crisis, we are very fortunate to have such beautiful spaces in which to ease our minds and take care of ourselves,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said. “I am glad that we are able to re-open these spaces with new safety guidelines, so that people can enjoy our state parks and forests while we continue to prioritize public health and safety.”

Starting May 1, parks and recreational sites will impose attendance limits, keep restrooms and other on-site facilities — including playgrounds and nature centers — closed, as well as reduce their daily visiting hours. 

Boat launches will be opened at DNR sites while campgrounds and shelters will remain closed until May 26. A limited number of remote, backpack and boat-in campsites will be available on a first-come first-serve basis. All special events and permits will also be canceled until later in May. 

Certain locations will be closed every Wednesday for DNR staff to perform maintenance. 

“We will take every measure possible to make sure these temporary capacity-based closures are as short as possible while still implementing the goals and objectives of that strategy,” said acting parks director for the DNR Mark Aquino. 

In adhering to social distancing, parks, forests and recreational centers can hold 75 percent of its carrying capacity. Park officials will identify key entrance points and shut down their sites once it reaches capacity, according to Channel3000. 

Visitors must purchase an annual park sticker to gain access to the sites by calling (888) 305-0398 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. every day of the week. The passes cost $28 for individuals with an in-state license plate and under 65 years old. Those older than 65 can buy their pass for $13. 

DNR officials advised individuals to call ahead to avoid long-lines and to be aware restrooms and other buildings will remain closed. 

“Outdoor recreation is important for both physical and mental health, and I know how important it is to Wisconsinites to get outside and enjoy Wisconsin’s natural resources and spring weather,” Evers said. “With a few adjustments, like closing one day a week for maintenance and reduced hours of operation, folks should be able to get outside and enjoy our parks safely and respectfully.”

Certain sites will remain closed as they do not provide enough proximity for visitors to practice social distancing. Aquino identified such locations as state natural areas, which feed into small, confined areas to show features such as landmarks, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The following places will now operate from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., earlier than the normal 11 p.m. closing time, and also be closed on Wednesdays:

  • Copper Falls
  • Devil’s Lake
  • Governor Dodge
  • Governor Nelson
  • Harrington Beach
  • Hartman Creek
  • High Cliff
  • Interstate
  • Kinnickinnic
  • Kettle Moraine Southern Unit
  • Lapham Peak
  • Perrot, Rib Mountain
  • Roche-a-Cri
  • Whitefish Dunes
  • Willow River

Sites that will remain open for seven days a week and close at 11 p.m. include: 

  • Black River State Forest
  • Brule River State Forest
  • Chippewa Flowage
  • Flambeau River State Forest
  • Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest
  • Governor Knowles State Forest
  • Lower Wisconsin State Riverway
  • Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest
  • Pike Wild River
  • Pine-Popple Wild River
  • Turtle Flambeau Flowage
  • Willow Flowage

Lastly, the following general campsites will be reopened on a limited basis:

  • Brule River State Forest
  • Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area
  • Dunnville Wildlife Area
  • Flambeau River State Forest
  • Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest
  • Governor Knowles State Forest
  • Meadow Valley State Wildlife Area
  • Tiffany Wildlife Area
  • Van Loon State Wildlife Area
  • Willow Flowage
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