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A woman walking on a woodland path in Bratt Woods

Schools are closed, events cancelled, but parks are open!

March 15, 2020  |  Topics: Issues, Spotlight

Our project, A Wealth of Nature, can help.

A message from Preserve Our Parks in a time of uncertainty.

Staying healthy is on everyone’s mind now. The primary concern, of course, is preventing the spread of COVID-19. Locally and nationally, the response to the pandemic has been unprecedented. The new protocols have become familiar in record time: wash your hands, avoid contact with other people, stay home if you are sick. Schools have closed. Public gatherings and events have been canceled. Businesses that can are encouraging employees to work from home.

A woman walking in an open, snowy field at Schoofs Preserve
Schoofs Preserve, Washington County

However, if you’re not sick and you suddenly have a lot more time on your hands due to cancellations, what better way is there to spend it than to go out for a walk in a nearby park? Maintain your social distance, as recommended, but go ahead and take a hike! Staying healthy has always included exercise. And if you need help deciding where to go, we have a map for you!

A girl kicking fallen leaves under a bright orange maple tree in Jackson Park
Jackson Park, Milwaukee

Although most park facilities have been closed for the duration, the parks themselves are open, as always. Here is the official Milwaukee County Parks Department statement (updated 3/25):

“The Wisconsin Stay Safe at Home Order went into effect at 8am on March 25 and will remain in place until April 24. Any additional rentals and special events in County parks prior to April 24 will be cancelled.

“Parks and trails will remain open for walking and biking, as long as social distancing requirements are followed.

“No team or contact sports will be permitted in parks. Milwaukee County Parks will continue to operate with minimum staffing levels, this includes operations staff providing essential maintenance, security and safety staff patrolling parks and support staff telecommuting whenever possible.”

A man hiking in a woodland section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Ice Age National Scenic Trail – Monches Segment, Waukesha County

Many of the other parks departments and nature centers are sending out similar messages on social media or posting messages on their websites such as this one from the Mequon Nature Preserve:  “Our trails will remain open from sunup to sundown. We encourage everyone to enjoy the sun and the fresh air of the 444 acres to explore.”

And this from Ozaukee Washington Land Trust:

“As you may find yourself cooped up inside over the next days or weeks, know that OWLT preserves are out there waiting for you to experience. With over 30 nature preserves, each one provides a new and unique feel. With each visit to a preserve, you will almost always come across something new. A natural escape is easily accessible with OWLT nature preserves.”

Note: While public parks and some private ones are open, a few, such as the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, have closed. Best to check before going.

Here is what we have to offer:

Find a Park!

There is no need to go far to find a place to take your walk. We can help! Our Find-a-Park map, a permanent feature of this website, is intended as a guide to local parks, preserves and nearby nature. We encourage you to use it during the current crisis and to return again and again once things return to normal. The images accompanying this post represent just a small sample of the many places in Southeastern Wisconsin featured on our map.

Find-a-Park map on website
Find-a-Park map (detail)

Hike with us!

As another feature of our A Wealth of Nature project, our project director Eddee Daniel leads hikes in a variety of local parks and preserves. Hikes are organized through, which requires you to join in order to sign up for a hike. Membership is free. The group is called Urban Wilderness Explorers. Click here to join and begin to receive notifications about upcoming hikes.

Note: Group hikes are suspended for the duration of the recommended period during the COVID-19 crisis. Sign up for when regular activities resume. In the meantime, use the map to find a place to hike on your own.

A person running into the woods on a paved path in Fox Brook Park
Fox Brook Park, Brookfield

Browse The Natural Realm

If you are homebound, for whatever reason, or simply in between hikes, we can still offer you a diversion through our blog, The Natural Realm. Here you will find stories by diverse authors about nearby nature, events that happened before the Coronavirus shutdown, issues related to parks, our series of featured artists, and always a wealth of photography showcasing the beautiful natural areas in Southeastern Wisconsin.

A final note

Please continue to use caution to minimize exposure to the virus for yourselves and others. Avoid contact with individuals who are sick, practice frequent hand washing, and avoid large gatherings. And of course, please stay home if you are sick. But if you are not sick, don’t stay hunkered down inside all the time. A dose of nature is a great way to lift your spirits.

Website Links

Find a Park

Hike with us

The Natural Realm blog

Gallery of selected parks and preserves

A man jogging on a trail in an open field at Lapham Peak
Kettle Moraine State Forest – Lapham Peak Unit, Waukesha County
A man walking down a stair into the Seven Bridges Trail ravine at Grant Park
Grant Park, South Milwaukee
A riverside stand of oaks in Case Eagle Park
Case Eagle Park, Rochester
A man walking on a wide, snowy path in an open prairie at Fellenz Woods Preserve
Fellenz Woods, Washington County
A birder with binoculars at Tichigan Wildlife Area
Tichigan Wildlife Area, Racine County

Remember, this is just a select few parks available in the region. There are many more on our Find-a-Park map!

Preserve Our Parks is a non-profit organization that advocates for and promotes parks and open green space and strives to protect the tenets of Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine.

The featured photo at the top is from Bratt Woods, Grafton. All photos by Eddee Daniel, Project Director of A Wealth of Nature. Milwaukee County Parks, Mequon Nature Preserve and Ozaukee Washington Land Trust are all project partners of A Wealth of Nature.