Wisconsin governor orders several state parks, forests and recreation areas closed

Citing unprecedented crowds, litter and vandalism, Gov. Tony Evers ordered the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to close 40 state parks, forests and recreation areas to protect the health and safety of visitors amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Outdoor activity is recognized as an essential activity under the governor’s “Safer at Home” order, but the DNR says several parks have been seeing record attendance, which makes following social distance guidelines difficult. 

Parking lot at High Cliff State Park. (Wisconsin DNR)

The agency says it understands the public’s need to enjoy the benefits of nature during the pandemic, but the safety of its staff and visitors supersedes continuing operations at certain locations.

"We know there are benefits to getting outdoors. By not doing this would put people's lives at risk," DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole said in a statement. "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."

Public health officials advise people wishing to take a break outdoors to exercise in their local neighborhoods and maintain a social distance of 6 feet or more. 

The following state parks, forests and recreation areas will be closed starting Friday, April 10:

Northeast Region

High Cliff State Park

Southeast Region

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