Evers reopens several state parks and forests, with conditions

Bathrooms and some attractions will remain closed

Gov. Tony Evers
Gov. Tony Evers

Last updated on April 28th, 2020 at 02:26 pm

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced today that he has directed the state Department of Natural Resources to re-open several state parks, forests, and recreational areas, which he closed earlier this month because large crowds were hurting social distancing efforts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

This is the latest step of Evers’ approach to slowly reopen the state and its economy, which has been largely shut down by his “Safer at Home” order, which he extended to May 26. On Monday, Evers eased some restrictions on “nonessential businesses.” Golf courses were permitted to reopen over the weekend.

The DNR will reopen 34 state parks and forests on Friday, May 1, under “special conditions” to help minimize overcrowding and allow for social distancing requirements, Evers said.

Those conditions mean bathrooms and some attractions at the parks will remain closed. Also, the parks will be closed every Wednesday for maintenance and upkeep.

At times, many state parks properties will likely reach their pre-determined safety capacity, Evers said. When this happens, visitors may be denied entry to the park until existing visitors leave.

“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 in a news release. “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.”

Hunting and fishing will be allowed on all open properties in accordance with legal season structure and hours. Access to some areas may be limited to walk-in or water access only. DNR boat launches are open at open state properties. All anglers and recreational boaters should practice social distancing and keep travel to a minimum, Evers said.

All linear/rail trails are open to the public, which includes ATV trails. An annual state trail pass is required for anyone age 16 or older biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding or in-line skating on certain trails. A state trail pass is not required for walking or hiking.

Restrooms at all state properties will be closed. All other facilities will remain closed, including towers, shelters, playgrounds, nature centers, headquarters, contact stations and concession buildings. Attractions where social distancing cannot be achieved will be closed as needed at various properties, Evers said.

Camping, group camps and shelters will remain closed until May 26. Limited numbers of remote, backpack and boat-in campsites are available on a first-come first-serve basis.

An annual state parks sticker and/or trail pass will be required to visit state parks and trails. The annual passes are not available for purchase at individual properties (they can be purchased by calling 1-888-305-0398). Park visitors must have annual admission stickers adhered to their vehicle or proof of purchase displayed on their windshield dashboard.

State parks and forests will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.