The latest executive order from Gov. Tim Walz for Minnesotans to “stay at home’’ doesn’t stop them from fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, walking, running, visiting state parks or enjoying other available public lands.
The broad exemption in favor of outdoor recreation — as long as people maintain proper social distancing — could go a long way to help address the state’s collective case of cabin fever. In places such as Red Wing, where spring walleye fishing already is booming on the Mississippi River, the mental health benefits are obvious.
“We’ve been super busy,” said Tanner Tredup of the 4 Season Sport Shop in Red Wing. “We have clients from Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas and, of course, Minnesota.”
He said he was thankful the governor’s new order clearly states that fishing can continue because anglers needed better communication on the issue.
“It impacts our business,” he said.
The Department of Natural Resources didn’t provide much interpretation of the governor’s order. But the agency is encouraging people to “stay close to home while they are outdoors.”
DNR said in a statement that its staff is reviewing programs and services to determine whether changes are needed. But so far, the DNR hasn’t altered fishing or hunting seasons and has not put restrictions on the use of DNR-controlled boat ramps.
State parks, wildlife management areas, state forests, campgrounds and other public lands remain open to the public and usage has been high, the DNR has said. But enclosures such as state park visitor centers are closed as are some restrooms.
In his “stay-at-home” news conference, Walz said: “Be smart about this … Don’t congregate together. If you can get out and social distance and walk, that’s a good thing. If you’re running, please do so, and stay away from one another. But those are things you can continue to do.”
The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota applauded the governor “for acknowledging that outdoor activity is critical to our physical and mental health.”
Walz included bike shops in his written listing of necessary services.
As far as fishing is concerned, the traditional season opener for walleye and northern pike is still seven weeks away. In the meantime, fishing is open for salmon and lake trout on Lake Superior, ice fishing continues on Lake of the Woods and walleye fishing at Big Stone and Traverse lakes near Ortonville never shuts down. In southeastern Minnesota and elsewhere, the traditional opener for stream trout is set for April 18.
There’s been no announcement from Walz’s office on whether he’ll go ahead with the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener as planned in Otter Tail County May 7-10. The annual event usually includes community celebrations preceding opening day.
“We’re trying to read the tea leaves like everyone else,” said Nick Leonard of East Silent Lake Resort, the local task force leader. “We’re in a wait-and-see mode.”
Minneapolis and St. Paul closed dozens of facilities and recreation centers last week and canceled programs, but emphasized that parks and trails remain open — all to be used at safe social distances by people who have no symptoms of illness. The Minneapolis Park Board is advising visitors to prepare for no restroom facilities or drinking fountains.
Three Rivers Parks District, made up of big parks and trail reserves such as Hyland Lake in Bloomington and Elm Creek in Maple Grove, will continue to keep its spaces open. Luke Skinner, the district’s associate superintendent, said Wednesday the only notable change was that park restrooms will close. All other buildings, facilities and play areas remain shut down.
“We at least want to keep our trails and places where people can get outside to walk, hike and bike open as much as possible,” Skinner said.
Golf wasn’t covered in the executive order, suggesting courses will remain closed at least until May 1. A collection of golf organizations wants clarification from Walz’s office and plans to propose ideas that would make a fairly solitary outdoor sport even safer in light of coronavirus.
Staff writers Dennis Anderson, Bob Timmons and Jerry Zgoda contributed to this report.