Milwaukee County is closing the Zoo, several county parks facilities and its senior centers to the public until further notice, in an effort to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, County Executive Chris Abele announced Saturday.
“The health and safety of Milwaukee County residents and visitors is our top priority, so we must continue to put our full weight behind ensuring we are prepared for COVID-19,” Abele said in a news release. “Closing our large public facilities is the best way to serve our residents and protect our community at this time, and we look forward to re-opening as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Effective immediately, the majority of Milwaukee County Parks public venues will close until further notice and public events, rentals, and programs scheduled to be held at these venues have also been canceled. Closed facilities include Mitchell Park Domes, Noyes Indoor Pool, Pulaski Indoor Pool, King Community Center, Kosciusko Community Center, Milwaukee County Sports Complex, Wehr Nature Center visitor center, Boerner Botanical Gardens Visitor Center, Wilson Recreation Center & Ice Arena, and Wil-O-Way facilities at Grant and Underwood. Scheduled sports leagues, rentals and events will also be canceled or postponed.
However, county parks, trails, and outdoor amenities including dog parks, disc golf courses and self-pay golf courses will remain open. The Grant Golf Course and pro shop will also remain open. Parks operations staff will continue to maintain parks and facilities as needed and the park rangers will continue to patrol parks. Horticulture staff will continue to tend to the plants and animals at the Mitchell Park Domes and Wehr Nature Center.
“The health and safety of our community and staff members are our highest priority,” parks executive director Guy Smith said. “We want to remind people that Parks remain a healthy support in this situation. People may practice social distancing and healthy habits while enjoying their parks, and the department will do our best to keep outdoor park facilities accessible to the public during this challenging time.”
The Zoo is closed and all Zoo and Zoological Society events and programs are cancelled beginning Sunday.
“The decision to close the Zoo was a difficult one, and a decision we did not take lightly,” Milwaukee County Zoo director Chuck Wikenhauser said. “We are a resource and a refuge for visitors and our community. The health and safety of our staff and Milwaukee County residents is the utmost priority amid this national health emergency. We will continue to do our part to help mitigate the spread of the virus and limit possible exposure. The animals in our collection are doing well, and animal care staff continue to work as normal, providing them with dedicated, professional care.”
The Milwaukee County Department of Aging will close the five county-owned senior centers for social programming effective Monday, March 16. This includes Clinton Rose, Kelly, McGovern, Washington and Wilson Senior Centers. Indian Council for the Elderly, West Allis and Grobschmidt dining sites will transition to carry-out only meals beginning March 16. Beginning March 17, the Hart Park dining site will transition to carry-out only meals.
“It is our top priority to protect the health of Milwaukee County residents, especially our most vulnerable who are aging, struggling with housing instability or lacking the necessary resources to stay safe and healthy. Although we will temporarily be closing some facilities, we have plans in place to ensure services continue without interruption during this crisis. These decisions are very difficult, but we believe the actions we are taking will help contain the spread of COVID-19,” said Mary Jo Meyers, director, Department of Health and Human Services. “We continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC and implement preventative measures to ensure the safety and health of those we serve.”