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.
Wisconsin DNR COVID-19 Info Page
|Story By: Andrew Goldstein