Wisconsin state parks lifting more restrictions

Wisconsin State Parks are adjusting operations. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR
Wisconsin State Parks are adjusting operations. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR(NBC15)
Published: May. 22, 2020 at 11:26 AM CDT
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It’s getting closer to business as usual at nearly all Wisconsin state parks.

On Friday, the state Department of Natural Resources announced as of 6 a.m. the next morning, all but four parks will be returning to normal hours and they will no longer close on Wednesday.

Restrooms, which had been closed during the heightened restrictions, will begin opening on Wednesday, June 3, the agency added. They do urge people to plan ahead and bring sanitizer with them, in case the facilities run out.

All of the parks’ group, family, and indoor group campsites will not open until at least June 7, nor will events and shelters. Those reservations will be canceled, DNR said. The agency plans to decide at a later date if those areas will be able to open after that date.

DNR noted that these four parks will remain closed for health and safety reasons as well as to protect the parks themselves:

  • Dells of The Wisconsin River State Natural Area
  • Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area
  • Parfrey's Glen state Natural area
  • Pewits Nest state Natural area

Rock Island State Park is also staying closed until July 1, including its campgrounds. Its ferry service will remain on hold too because of high lake levels and as they await guidance on the safest way to operate during the pandemic.

Heading into the Memorial Day weekend, DNR also detailed restrictions that will be in place and general reminders for people panning to head to the parks:

  • An annual park sticker or trail pass is required to visit state parks and trails which can be purchased online or by calling 1-888-305-0398 daily 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • All restrooms are closed through June 2
  • Temporary capacity restrictions will be put into place as needed to manage admissions and overcrowding at properties. View current property information before visiting here: Wisconsin State Park Capacity Updates.
  • Attractions at which social distancing cannot be achieved are closed at various properties; visit the park notices webpage for information about ongoing closures.
  • All other facilities currently closed such as towers, shelters, playgrounds, nature centers, headquarters, entrance stations and concession buildings remain closed to the public.
  • Fight the Bite! Ticks are out, and visitors should take precautions to prevent Lyme Disease.
  • Most state parks, forests, and other areas do not have garbage or recycle bins, so visitors will need to take any trash with them.

The forests and parks were originally closed soon after the Department of Health Services issued its first ‘Safer at Home’ order. While they had initially stayed open, but DNR ended up reversing course, citing unprecedented crowds descending on the parks and the lack of social distancing by some of the visitors. They partially reopened on May 1 with restrictions that included limited hours.