Camp sites reopen, social distancing continues at state parks

    Courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources page on parks and recreation.
    Courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources page on parks and recreation.

    On June 10, campgrounds reopened on state lands, with special conditions to ensure the continued safety of visitors and staff. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) states that visitors will notice automatic, touchless check-ins, and new signs encouraging social distancing. Park offices will remain closed to the public.

    This marks the latest stage of development in the COVID saga for the Badger State’s parks and campgrounds. On May 1, Gov. Tony Evers ordered the reopening of several state parks after 40 were ordered closed in April. In the early days of Safer at Home, visitor numbers ballooned in the parks, as did litter and instances of vandalism. Now, although the state-wide Safer at Home order no longer exists, parks are continuing a measured return to normalcy.

    Moving forward, camping reservations will only be made online or over the phone to limit contact with DNR staff. Same-day camping reservations are also available. You won’t need to check in at the office or visitor station, but expect a visit from property staff as they monitor occupancy. Reservations previously made for June 8 or 9 will be refunded. Rock Island State Park remains closed through June 30. The Washington Island Ferry Line is also suspending all trips to and from Rock Island.

    Group camping, shelters, and amphitheaters will remain closed until June 30 as well. Most restrooms are open, but remote water fountains may be closed depending on location. All other facilities from playgrounds to nature centers, contact stations and concessions will remain closed. Equipment rentals are unavailable, as is firewood at the state parks themselves.

    Everyone recognizes that it is  important to get out and enjoy the warm weather, and decompress from those 2020 anxieties. Annual park stickers and trail passes are required for state park visits, but they are not available for purchase at individual properties. Many properties are continuing to enforce capacity limits, a limit which, once reached, will close the park. The State Natural Areas of Pewits Nest, Parfrey’s Glen, Dells of the Wisconsin River, and Gibraltar Rock remain closed.

    Most Wisconsin state parks, forests and other day-use areas do not have garbage or recycling bins, the DNR reminds visitors.When you visit, please take your garbage and recyclables home with you. We all play a vital role in taking care of our natural resources.”

    Isiah Holmes
    Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, and other outlets.