With a warning that social distancing must be maintained, Gov. Tony Evers announced the state is reopening 34 of the 40 state parks that it had closed nearly three weeks ago due to crowded conditions and vandalism.
State parks to reopen on Friday 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 and Willow Flowage.
The state parks that are reopening will be open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., six days a week. The parks will close Wednesdays for maintenance and upkeep. Exceptions are the Northern Forests, Flowages, Lower Wisconsin Riverway and Wild Rivers, which will be open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. Boat launches in these parks owned by the state Department of Natural Resources also will be open for use. Restrooms will remain closed at all sites.
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. Camping, group camps and shelters will remain closed until May 26.
“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 Evers in a statement. “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.”
An annual park sticker or trail pass, depending on the park, will be required for park access. These stickers will not be available for purchase at the park locations. They must be purchased with a credit card by 1-888-305-0398 between 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week.
The following properties will remain closed for the health and safety of the public, staff, and property integrity: Gibraltar Rock state natural area, Pewit’s Nest state natural area, Parfrey’s Glen state natural area and Dells of The Wisconsin River state natural area.
Some of the more popular parks will be reopening but with a pre-determined visitor capacity level. Once that capacity is reached, visitors will be denied entry to the park until others leave. State parks in this category include: 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 Mount, Roche-a-Cri, Whitefish Dunes and Willow River.
“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 a statement. “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.”
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