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As state parks close, leaders of county parks urge public to comply with social distance rules

Posted at 1:04 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 14:04:12-04

MILWAUKEE — With 40 of Wisconsin's State Parks, recreational areas and trails now closed, leaders from several counties are urging residents to practice social distancing and to respect the rules laid out under the state's "Safer at Home" order in order to avoid the closure of county parks as well.

Governor Tony Evers ordered most of the state's parks to close after tens-of-thousands of people flooded the parks last weekend. In some instances, attendance records were broken.

The governor said in a statement that the people also ignored social distancing rules, and that there had been an increase in littering and vandalism at State Parks.

"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," said DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole.

On Friday, rangers parked near the entrance of Havenswood State Forest Park and barricades kept visitors out.

At Lakeshore State Park, the trails along the shore of Lake Michigan were empty and runners who were met with signs that read "park closed" and "do not enter" were disappointed.

"It's a little disappointing just because its a really pretty area but also I understand the reasons for restrictions so I guess whatever they have to do is good," said Rachel Margis, a runner who was turned around.

All of the closures also mean county parks must brace for an increase in attendance.

"There's a lot of places to run around the lake. We'll see how long they keep those open for," said runner Sean Beyers.

Milwaukee County's parks are still open to walkers and joggers but picnic areas, facilities, and playgrounds are closed.

"We were throwing the football around at Juneau Park on Saturday and [police] said we couldn't do that anymore," said Beyers. "We didn't want to be the reason they close the park down."

Meanwhile, leaders in several counties do expect a rise in attendance in the coming days.

The Ozaukee County sheriff has upped patrols at parks, according to County Administrator Jason Dzwinel.

"We want to keep our parks open but it's going to take some compliance with the overcrowding and social distancing requirements that were all dealing with in all aspects of our life today," said Dzwinel.

Milwaukee, Waukesha and Kenosha counties have all posted to social media asking the public to comply with the rules as well.

Officials recommend anyone visiting the parks to cover their nose and mouth with a mask when possible and to remain at least six-feet away from everyone else.

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