In a sign that things are slowly getting back to normal, three popular state park properties will reopen more than a year after they closed, and visitors will once again be able to climb observation towers and playgrounds in the parks.
Parfrey’s Glen and Pewits Nest State Natural Areas, both near Baraboo in Sauk County, quietly opened last week. The Ministry of Natural Resources officially announced their reopening in a press release on Tuesday. State natural areas were part of the 40 parks which were closed last April due to overcrowding which has led to social distancing issues as well as litter and vandalism issues.
Both see a lot of visitors even in normal summers. This high attendance has led to problems with visitors damaging sensitive vegetation and engaging in prohibited activities such as cliff jumping, which led the DNR to install fencing and restrict access to part of the Pewits Nest Gorge in 2017.
Rock Island State Park, at the tip of Door County, will reopen May 28. The DNR closed the park last year partly due to social distancing issues on the Karfi ferry that serves the island, as well as damage to the island’s wharf, which had been submerged by the high lake level.
The DNR also announced that observation towers and playgrounds in state parks will reopen on April 30 and increased capacity limits for volunteer groups (50 people); outdoor shelters, amphitheatres and outdoor group camps (100); and non-DNR special events (100). Freestanding concession stands will open at 50% capacity. Indoor group campsites and shelters like the Flambeau River State Forest yurt will remain closed until June 1.
Visitor and nature centers, gated shelters and office buildings remain closed, and popular parks like Lapham Peak and Devil’s Lake will still have capacity limits in place and could close temporarily if they reach capacity. Park status is available at the MNR website.