Governor Tony Evers announced today that most of the state parks he had closed earlier in April would reopen at the end of this week. The governor said steps are being taken to allow people to exercise without risking their health.
When Evers announced the closure of forty state parks earlier in April, he did so because of record attendance, vandalism, and littering. Today, Evers announced he would be reopening thirty four of them. Sarah Hoye, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says they can do this safely because of the precautions they put in place.
“An annual sticker and/or trail pass will be required to visit any state park or trail,” said Hoye. “There were people lining up to buy passes. Can’t have that, right? You already have that pass in hand, have that sticker on your windshield and/or your proof of purchase on your dashboard. You will keep that with you and in the car at all times while you are on that property. Hours of operation have also changed. State parks and forests will be open from 6 a.m. to 7. That’s changed from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Properties will be closed to the public every Wednesday for maintenance and upkeep. The restrooms will be closed and we will also have pre-determined safety capacity limitations. Think of it as fire codes, right? Every building has a fire code, certain number of people can be allowed into a building, same kind of concept.”
Hoye says that COVID-19 is still a very serious problem, but by limiting the number of attendees and their actions, this can prevent the parks from being dangerous.
These are just some of the restrictions Governor Evers has recently relaxed. The governor has also allowed several businesses that were considered non-essential to operate through curbside pickups and deliveries.
At the beginning of April, a group of 40 Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to Governor Evers asking him to reopen traditional golf courses. And, after lobbying from state legislators, the Governor has allowed golf courses to reopen, with limits. Golf carts are prohibited, clubhouses and driving ranges must stay closed, and players must still social distance unless they live in the same household..
But many disc golf courses remain closed. Nathan Janke, a Madison disc golf enthusiast, says he believes this is because golf players are typically more affluent than disc golfers.
“Ball golf courses are slightly larger in terms of employment, they’re a richer sport played by more affluent folks, whether it’s older population or richer population,” said Janke. “Because of all the additional structure associated with ball golf, I think the income level of the players and their ability to lobby is probably the biggest. I think that a lot of folks glommed onto golf courses being closed early on as a source of frustration and the administration heard those lobbyists and made accommodations. Disc golf just doesn’t have that same level of clout.”
Janke says that he believes disc golf isn’t any riskier than traditional golf. Mike Batka, the owner of Glide Disc Golf, says he believes that lawmakers don’t understand the sport very well. He says that Wisconsin’s leadership has had to make difficult decisions to deal with an unprecedented crisis, and even he does have some concerns.
“I think if everyone came with the understanding that they were going to have to operate a little differently, I think it could be done,” said Batka. “Like many things in life, it just takes a few bad apples to spoil it for the rest of us. And, unfortunately, I do have some concerns about what it would look like at some of our area courses on a nice, seventy degree, sunny day. And if the courses were open I certainly think there would be a lot of people out. Would everyone be compliant? I don’t know.”
Governor Evers’ order to reopen state parks takes effect on Friday.