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Chicago outdoors and coronavirus: Wisconsin to close 40 sites, updates on Emiquon and Door County

Wisconsin closing 40 state sites leads this update on Chicago outdoors and coronavirus, but there’s also updates at Emiquon Preserve and Wisconsin’s Door County.

Parking lot at High Cliff State Park. Due to unprecedented crowds Gov. Evers directed the DNR to close several state properties.  Credit: Wisconsin DNR
Parking lot at High Cliff State Park. Due to unprecedented crowds Gov. Evers directed the DNR to close several state properties.
Wisconsin DNR

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers obviously had seen enough and will close 40 state parks, forests and recreational areas. It reminded me of when Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot reached her breaking point on March 25 when thousands descended on the lakefront, then she closed the lakefront, the Riverwalk and the 606. Early this morning Gov. Evers directed 40 sites, primarily in the south, to be closed as of Friday. April 10.

That leads this update on Chicago outdoors and coronavirus, but there are also a couple short notes on Emiquon Preserve and Wisconsin’s Door County.

First the meat of Wisconsin public site closures:

MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is modifying its state park operations on a case-by-case basis to maintain the safest environment for visitors and staff.

Due to unprecedented crowds, litter, vandalism and the need to protect the health and safety of our visitors and staff, Gov. Evers has directed the DNR to close the following Wisconsin State Parks, Forests and Recreational Areas effective 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

Several parks have had record attendance recently. 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.

Under the Safer at Home order, we must do all that we can to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The DNR understands the public’s need to enjoy the benefits of nature during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the Safer at Home order recognizes outdoor activity as an essential activity, people wishing to take a break outdoors are advised by public health officials to exercise in your local neighborhoods and maintain a social distance of 6 feet or more.

”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. Currently, the safety of our staff and visitors supersedes continuing operations at certain locations. 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. We all play a vital role in taking care of our natural resources. Following the Leave No Trace principles helps protect the land for generations to come.

The DNR continues to receive the most up-to-date information and will adjust operations as conditions change. We will also continue to monitor on-the-ground circumstances each day to determine if more park closures or an entire state park system closure becomes necessary. Before visiting other properties, please check with individual parks regarding changes to park operations.

* * *

Doug Blodgett emailed early this morning this update on fishing at Emiquon Preserve near Havana, Ill.:

Due to the COVID-19 issue, for the time being, we are not requiring people to obtain a liability waiver/permit to boat/fish Thompson Lake at the Emiquon Preserve. All other regulations, including no gas motors, remain in effect and are being enforced.

I asked if that was to prevent even incidental contact and he replied:

Yes ... both for the public and our staff.

* * *

Just in case you have a second place in Door County or plan to head north for walleye or big smallmouth bass on Green Bay, here is an update from Door County Public Health:

Please continue to adhere to the “safer at Home” guidelines. We know that COVID-19 is spreading throughout the United States and Wisconsin.

Travel to and from Door County is highly discouraged at the time. If you choose to return to Door County, Door County Public Health requests that you self-quarantine for a full 14 days.

If you have immediate questions, you may contact Public Health during business hours.

Monday-Friday 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

Phone: (920)-746-2234