A few weeks back, Gov. Tony Evers closed 40 state parks, forests and recreational areas in Wisconsin due to large crowds, littering and vandalism in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Evers announced on Tuesday that this will be changing. Starting May 1, Evers is directing the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to reopen 34 state parks and forests, but with special conditions.
The special conditions will help minimize the overcrowding that occurred previously while also allowing for social distancing. With these new conditions, the goal is to promote an enjoyable and safer experience for not only visitors but staff, too.
“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,” said Gov. Evers in the Tuesday press 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.”
So what does this mean for Milwaukee residents?
Notably, Lakeshore State Park along Milwaukee’s shoreline will be opening Friday along with Kettle Moraine Southern Unit, Lapham Peak, Harrington Beach, Interstate and Havenwoods. However, there will be capacity limits.
Starting May 1, those who would like to use the state’s parks and forests will be required to purchase an annual pass or park sticker. This admission will allow the state to better regulate the capacity of its parks.
For Kettle Moraine, Lapham Peak, Harrington Beach, and Interstate, the properties will have a predetermined safety capacity. When this capacity is reached, new visitors may be prohibited from entry until pre-existing visitors leave. As a result, visitors are encouraged to visit parks during non-peak hours when the parks will be less busy, like before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
In addition, the hours of operation of the state parks and forests will be altered from its original 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. hours to its new timeframe of 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Additionally, the parks and forests will be closed every Wednesday for matters of maintenance and upkeep.
Along with these changes, restrooms will still remain closed, as will concession stands, contact stations, playgrounds, towers, shelters, nature centers, or any other public used area where social distancing cannot be safely achieved.
“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,” said Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in Tuesday’s press release. “I am glad that we are able to reopen 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.”