MADISON, WI-- Thirty-four Wisconsin state parks and recreational areas closed for three weeks will be able to reopen Friday as temperatures increase across the state and cases of coronavirus level off.
Governor Tony Evers made that announcement, affecting mostly parks in the southern part of the state, in a press release Tuesday morning.
Evers is directing the DNR to reopen 34 state parks, forests and recreational areas that were previously closed due to overcrowding.
The areas that will reopen will open under special conditions to help minimizing overcrowding while maintaining social distancing requirements and promoting a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors and staff members.
Admission is required starting Friday, May 1, and here's some things to know:
- Annual park sticker or trail pass is required to visit. You can purchase them over the phone by calling 1-888-305-0398 using a credit card.
- The annual passes can't be purchases at individual sites, as visitors must have they annual admission sticker on their vehicle or proof of purchase to enter
- You must place the proof of purchase on the dashboard of your while inside a state park or forest
- The annual sticker is valid through December 31, 2020
The parks and forests will be open from 6 a.m to 7 p.m. daily, and properties will be closed Wednesdays for maintenance work.
The northern forests and flowages will remain open during normal hours each day, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., and in our area, that includes:
- Brule River State Forest
- Chippewa Flowage
- Flambeau River State Forest
- Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Access to hunting and fishing will be allowed as long as it follows the legal season structure and hours, but some areas may be limited to walk-in or water access only.
DNR boat launches will be open, as long as those using it keep traveling to a minimum and practice social distancing. If you are able to access the lakes and rivers in Wisconsin legally, you're free to use them while engaging in outdoor recreation.
All trails, including ATV trails, are open to the public. You don't need a state trail pass to walk or hike the trails, but one is required on certain trails for those 16 and older biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing or in-line skating on said trails.
All restrooms and outdoor facilities and buildings will be closed.
Many areas at some point will reach the safety capacity, and if that's the case, those visiting may not be allowed in until those currently visiting leave. It's encouraged to visit other areas or visit during non-peak hours, which is before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. The only one in our area that's likely to prohibit visitors if the safety capacity is reached is Copper Falls State Park in Mellen.
Camping, shelters and group camps will remain closed through May 26 and those who have passes for that will be refunded.
There's a limited amount of remote, backpack and boat-in campsites available, and those will come on a first-come, first-serve basis. In our area, the Brule River State Forest and Flambeau River State Forest offer this kind of camping.
All events and special event permits are cancelled through May 26 as well, and any volunteer activities also remain suspended until further notice at DNR properties.
Things could change in the coming weeks, so it's important to visit the Wisconsin Department of Health website for the latest updates.