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Wisconsin DNR waives entrance fees at state parks, trailsSubmitted: 03/31/2020
WAUSAU -
Drive to the entrance at Rib Mountain State Park and you usually have to stop there to pay.

That's no longer the case, after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) waived entrance fees at all state parks and trails to encourage sensible outdoor activity.

"We want folks to use those responsibly and travel within their own communities and maintain social distancing in small groups," said recreation partnership sections chief Missy VanLanduyt

Getting rid of the fees is meant to cut down on potential overcrowding problems at the parks.


The main parking lot at Rib Mountain, for instance, has one fee box. The concern is that if too many people start gathering around it or touching the metal on it, that defeats the whole point of social distancing.

"If we need to adjust because there are too many people congregating or too many people in one place, then that's what we'll do," DNR communications director Sarah Hoye said.

Parks in several other states, like Michigan, California and Rhode Island have closed, partially due to too many visitors.

The DNR weighed that risk against maintaining the everyday health of Wisconsinites.

"It's essential because there are both physical and mental benefits to being outdoors, especially at a time like this," Hoye said.

If people can maintain a safe distance from each other, the parks will stay open and free during the lockdown.

"We want to be able to keep those parks open, we want people to have that outlet, but we really need the public's help," Hoye said. "I cannot stress that enough."

The DNR is asking people to bring their own water and hand sanitizer to parks.

Most facilities in state parks, including campgrounds and ranger stations, are closed.

A full list can be found on the DNR website.

Related Weblinks:
Wisconsin DNR COVID-19 Info Page

Story By: Andrew Goldstein

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 LOCAL NEWS

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"Maple syrup is a big family and community time for us usually," said Solin. "We love to have people out in the woods with us, tapping trees and collecting sap and being part of the cooking process. We just can't do that this year and so its kind of a lonely maple syrup season.

But the growing fears of coronavirus shrunk the team down to just five - making his farm in Antigo eerily quiet.

"I think we'll be okay," said Solin. "It just means a lot more work for fewer people essentially to try and keep up and more stress in a sense during the process of the season."

It's more work for Solin, but still same volume of syrup.

Supply won't be the issue - Solin is concerned about the demand.

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It's been hard for most students. But seniors are especially concerned 

They worried they may miss out on important milestones. 

"When we are in school it's a whole lot easier to go down the hall, call a classroom to get a kid, talk to them in the hallways, go to the performances and games and all that to just be more present in their life," Tienhaara said.

Rhinelander High School counselor Ryan Tienhaara is doing his best to make sure students are getting the support they need during the Coronavirus pandemic.

"It's important to talk about those frustrations if you are frustrated," Tienhaara said.

Tienhaara says while most seniors have some idea of what's next after high school, some students, including juniors will have to make big decisions remotely.

"Most schools are closed down for who knows how long so it could be lots of virtual visits," Tienhaara said. 

For kids feeling lonely, stressed or anxious, Tienhaara urges students to lean on family and friends.

"Open up those lines of communication with everybody because we are all kind of struggling through this together," Tienhaara said.

While many are worried about missing out on certain experiences, counselors suggest seniors to create new ones by capturing this moment in its own milestone.

"All seniors across the U.S. essentially have lost their spring semester. Not necessarily that that's a good thing but to know that they are not alone while going through these emotions and feeling the frustrations," Tienhaara said.

In the meantime, Tienhaara hopes education is prioritized from here on out and nothing is taken for granted.

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