On Thursday morning, Gov. Tony Evers directed the Department of Natural Resources to close a slew of state parks, forests, and recreational areas. Why? Because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, of course, but also because of “unprecedented crowds, litter, vandalism, and out of an abundance of caution to protect public health and safety and help flatten the curve.”

“I wanted to keep state parks open for the public to enjoy during this challenging time which is why outdoor activity is listed as an essential activity under the Safer at Home order,” Evers says in a press release. “Unfortunately, growing difficulty with ensuring social distancing compliance, dwindling cleaning supplies and mounting trash are some of the challenges faced by our state parks staff. We have to address the growing public health and safety concern and protect Wisconsinites.”

The following areas will close at the end of the day on Thursday, April 9, and remain closed until further notice:

Aztalan State Park

Belmont Mound State Park

Big Foot Beach State Park

Blue Mound State Park

Cadiz Springs State Recreational Area

Capital Springs State Recreational Area

Cross Plains State Park

Devil’s Lake State Park

Fenley State Recreational Area

Governor Dodge State Park

Governor Nelson State Park

Harrington Beach State Park

Havenwoods State Forest

High Cliff State Park

Kettle Moraine State Forest – Lapham Peak

Kohler-Andrae State Park

Lake Kegonsa State Park

Lakeshore State Park

Loew Lake

Lower Wisconsin Riverway

Mackenzie Center

Mirror Lake State Park

Mukwonago River

Natural Bridge State Park

Nelson Dewey State Park

New Glarus Woods State Park

Northern Unit

Pike Lake

Richard Bong State Recreational Area

Rocky Arbor State Park

Sauk Prairie State Recreational Area

Tower Hill State Park

Wyalusing State Park

Yellowstone Lake State Park

Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area

Pewits Nest State Natural Area

Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area

Dells of The Wisconsin River State Natural Area

A press release adds:

Despite waiving fees, closing state park offices, visitor centers, and non-essential buildings to help minimize the transmission of COVID-19 at parks, the situation has reached a point where public safety in the parks and surrounding communities takes precedence over keeping these locations open. If the public does not follow social distancing guidelines and vandalizes property, more state parks may have to close.The public should follow simple steps to prevent illness and avoid exposure to this virus including:

• Avoid social gatherings with people of all ages (including playdates and sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, visitors in your home, non-essential workers in your house)

• Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water

• Covering coughs and sneezes

• Avoiding touching your face

• Staying home

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Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.