Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday ordered the closure of 40 state parks, forests and recreational areas, primarily in southern and southeastern Wisconsin, to help reduce overcrowding and vandalism and to slow the spread of the coronavirus. “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,” Evers said. The closures include Devil’s Lake State Park, the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Blue Mound State Park, Governor Dodge State Park, New Glarus Woods State Park and Dells of the Wisconsin River State Natural Area. The only closed park that isn’t in southern Wisconsin was High Cliff State Park.
City’s skate parks, playgrounds closed
The city of St. Paul is closing playgrounds, sports courts and skate parks to help combat the spread of COVID-19. The closures come in response to the recent increased demand for use of recreational amenities on warm-weather days, combined with a concern for public safety because social distancing cannot be managed at such sites. Parks, trails, open spaces, dog parks and athletic fields will remain open, with restrictions, including 6-foot social distancing. No pickup games, contact sports or organized teams will be allowed.
Superior forest ranger offices closed
The U.S. Forest Service has closed Minnesota ranger offices managing the Superior National Forest, limiting interaction with the public to phone calls. A hotline also is set up for questions about permits for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Here is how the public can reach the ranger offices:
• Forest headquarters, 218-343-8972
• Gunflint, 218-387-1750
• LaCroix, 218-666-0020
• Kawishiwi, 218-365-7600
• Tofte, 218-663-8060
• Laurentian, 218-229-8800
Office hours in which calls will be answered are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The public should direct questions about BWCA permits and reservations to 218-626-4395.
Applications pour in for emergency aid
St. Paul families and businesses flooded the city with applications for emergency cash assistance in the hours after the St. Paul Bridge Fund went live Wednesday, and demand soon outpaced supply.
Applications opened shortly before 7 p.m.; by 2 p.m. Thursday 1,801 families and 833 businesses had applied, according to city spokeswoman Lisa Hiebert.
Up to 1,000 families will receive $1,000 grants and about 300 small businesses will receive $7,500 grants. People can apply online and by phone until 5 p.m.
April 19. Recipients will be chosen through a lottery, and funds disbursed in late April or early May.
No preference will be given based on when an application was submitted.
The $3.85 million bridge fund is paid for by the city, along with local foundations, corporations and sports teams.
For more information or to file an application visit www.stpaul.gov/bridge-fund or call 651-266-6565, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.