SHEBOYGAN COUNTY — Governor Tony Evers directed the Department of Natural Resources to re-open 34 of Wisconsin's State Parks on Friday.
Parks were closed on April 10 due to concerns of overcrowding and vandalism amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"It was very crowded and there were people walking where they shouldn't have been," recalled Scott Mentink who was happy to return to Kohler-Andre State Park in Sheboygan County on Friday.
Parks will now be open under special conditions aimed at slowing and stopping the spread of the virus.
- Park hours will be from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. on weekdays.
- Parks will close on Wednesdays for upkeep and maintenance.
- Camping will be prohibited until at least May 26.
- Restrooms will remain closed.
- Offices and faculties (including shelters, observation towers, offices and playgrounds) will remain closed.
All visitors must also purchase their annual vehicle admission pass and trail passes online before arriving at the park. The cost for vehicle admission passes are $28 for the first vehicle with WI plates and $15.50 for each additional vehicle from the same household.
Day passes will not be allowed and no staff on site will be able to see the passes. You'll need to call 1-888-305-0398 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to purchase your pass and recieve a confirmation code and receipt to bring with you to the park. The phone line is active seven days per week.
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Park visitor Shannon Teska was one of the first people to arrive at Kohler-Andrae State Park on Friday.
"I got up this morning at 5:30 and was like I want to be the first person out there because I've been missing this," said Teska. She is a mental health therapist who agreed outdoor recreation is extremely important to mental and physical health during the pandemic that has forced many people to stay home more often than usual.
Officials say it is up to individuals to take ownership in keeping the parks open now that they're allowing public access to trails again.
"If there's a certain area that people are starting to congregate we might need to close those areas or try to restrict access to certain area," said Caroline Morgen, Superintendent of Kohler-Andrae State Park."The goal is public health. We want people to be able to come out and enjoy the parks but, we also need to keep people safe while they're doing that."
Morgen also said there will be additional law enforcement and staff on hand to help monitor activity.
She said the goal of the new rules is to help slow and stop the spread of the coronavirus while still offering people a chance to visit State Parks. The new rules will remain in place until further notice.
Wisconsin's Safer at Home order is set to expire on May 26.