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Gov. Evers orders dozens of state parks closed, cites overcrowding and vandalism

Gov. Tony Evers has ordered the closure of 40 state parks, forests and recreational areas as Wisconsin continues its efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Evers directed the Department of Natural Resources on Thursday to close the the parks because of "unprecedented crowds, litter, vandalism and out of an abundance of caution to protect public health and safety and help flatten the curve," he wrote in a statement.

Popular Southeastern Wisconsin destinations like Devil's Lake, Havenswood State Forest and Kettle Moraine State Forest are among the closures. City and county parks are not impacted by the order.

Kettle Moraine State Forest

In previous statements, Evers had encouraged outdoor activity, and state parks had been exempted from the shelter-in-place closures that he enacted earlier this month. But, he wrote on Thursday, "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.”

"We know there are benefits to getting outdoors," DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole wrote in a statement. "By not doing this would put people's lives at risk. With the weather warming we are seeing increases in visitors and a myriad of challenges surrounding social distancing. In order to the protect the public, this is a necessary step."

The following parks and recreation areas have been closed:

High Cliff State Park, Big Foot Beach State Park, Harrington Beach State Park, Havenwoods State Forest, Kohler-Andrae State Park, Kettle Moraine State Forest Lapham Peak, Loew Lake, Mukwonago River, Northern Unit, Pike Lake, Southern Unit, Lakeshore State Park, Richard Bong State Recreational Area, Aztalan State Park, Belmont Mound 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, Lake Kegonsa State Park, Lower Wisconsin Riverway, Mackenzie Center, Mirror Lake State Park, Natural Bridge State Park, Nelson Dewey State Park, New Glarus Woods State Park, 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 and Dells of The Wisconsin River State Natural Area.

Evers wrote that additional parks may close if residents don't obey social distancing guidelines or if the vandalism continues.