WAUSAU PILOT AND REVIEW
Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday ordered the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources to close 40 state parks, forests and recreation areas after unprecedented crowds, litter and vandalism, according to a DNR news release.
The following areas are closed effective Friday, April 10:
High Cliff State Park
Big Foot Beach State Park, Harrington Beach State Park, Havenwoods State Forest, Kohler-Andrae State Park, Kettle Moraine State Forest Lapham Peak, Loew Lake, Mukwonago River, Northern Unit, Pike Lake, Southern Unit, Lakeshore State Park and Richard Bong State Recreational Area
South Central Region
Aztalan State Park, Belmont Mound State Park, Blue Mound State Park, Cadiz Springs State Recreational Area, Capital Springs State Recreational Area, Cross Plains State Park, Devil’s Lake State Park, Fenley State Recreational Area, Governor Dodge State Park, Governor Nelson State Park, Lake Kegonsa State Park, Lower Wisconsin Riverway, Mackenzie Center, Mirror Lake State Park, Natural Bridge State Park, Nelson Dewey State Park, New Glarus Woods State Park, Rocky Arbor State Park, Sauk Prairie State Recreational Area, Tower Hill State Park, Wyalusing State Park, Yellowstone Lake State Park, Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area, Pewits Nest State Natural Area, Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area and Dells of The Wisconsin River State Natural Area
Several parks have had record attendance in recent days. For the weekend of April 4-5, High Cliff had an estimated 16,457 visitors, Lapham Peak had an estimated 11,168 visitors, Kohler-Andrae had an estimated 8,469 visitors, Devil’s Lake had an estimated 7,647 visitors, Richard Bong had an estimated 3,884 visitors, and Mirror Lake had an estimated 2,870 visitors.
Harrington Beach had an estimated 3,639 visitors for the weekend and has had more than 5,600 estimated visitors so far for the month of April. By comparison, the average monthly visitors at Harrington for the past 12 years is 9,695 for the entire month of April.
DNR officials say they understand the public’s need to enjoy the beauty and benefits of nature during the public health crisis, but people who do take breaks outdoors are urged to maintain a social distance of 6 feet or more and exercise in their own local neighborhoods.
“We know there are benefits to getting outdoors. By not doing this would put people’s lives at risk,” said DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole. “With the weather warming we are seeing increases in visitors and a myriad of challenges surrounding social distancing. In order to the protect the public, this is a necessary step.”
In efforts to help minimize the transmission of COVID-19 at parks, the DNR waived fees, and closed state park offices, visitor centers, and non-essential buildings.
If the public does not follow social distancing guidelines and vandalizes property, more state parks may have to close.
The DNR urges visitors to do their part when visiting a park. Most Wisconsin state parks, forests and other day-use areas do not have garbage or recycling bins. When you visit, you will need to take your garbage and recyclables home with you and follow the Leave No Trace principles.