Written by Deb McRae
The warbers are back, the wildflowers are incredible, and we are still safer at home! But “safer at home” is taking on a little different look. Summer-like temperatures are teasing us, and all of us are tired of being cooped up. Everyone is heading outdoors.
All of us at Wehr want everyone to get out and enjoy our wonderful nature center in all its spring splendor, but we are deeply concerned for the safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers. With the State Supreme Court decision last week, the state was thrown into a new situation-instead of a single set of safety guideline/rules, it is now up to every individual municipality to set their own. In Milwaukee County the municipalities have worked together to create a unified set of guidelines/rules. We are still under the safer at home guideline. Each day new guidelines and criteria from the CDC and other health groups are coming out to guide cleaning and disinfecting procedures. An approved cleaning protocol, PPE, and cleaning supplies need to be available before Wehr can consider opening the visitor center and the restrooms. Milwaukee County Parks is working diligently to help us open.
While we want to provide our visitors every service possible, things have changed for the staff. The entire staff is on some type of furlough which varies from 4-6 hrs per week for the full-time staff and indefinite to intermittent for the part-time staff. You may have heard that Milwaukee County Parks is not hiring any seasonal staff this summer. With no money coming into the county and many millions going out in support of COVID-19, there is not enough money to keep everyone working. The County staff will be going to other Park units one day per week to help mow grass and pick up garbage because most of Park Operations depends on seasonal help and there are no workers. We do not know how long this will go on but it will impact how quickly staff can answer questions, respond to email, and especially create programs. Another change will be the work schedule for staff. With more hours of sunlight the Center trails are remaining crowded much later into the evening. To help handle the large number of people, the staff will be walking the trails from 5pm to 8 pm each night except during inclement weather. This may further impact when staff will get back to your emails or questions. Thank you for your understanding and patience.
Wehr’s trails are open and we encourage those who want to come and hike our trails. But to keep everyone safe, please follow physical distancing of 6 ft, wear a mask out of respect for others, and use common sense. There are some narrow places on the trails that make 6-foot distances impossible-like crossing Warbler Bridge. Please use common courtesy and allow alternating crossing of the bridges.
While we wait to open, the staff is working hard to create on-line content for programs, YouTube videos, blogs, and a variety of small programs that can be offered when we will be able to re-open. Please check the Friends of Wehr website for the latest information and on-line content.
Please remember to stay safe, enjoy our trails responsibly, and wash your hands frequently. We can’t wait to see everyone in person once we are able. Your support for the Friends of Wehr is greatly appreciated whenever you can. With County budgets stretched to the point of breaking, support from the Friends of Wehr is even more critical-please donate if you can.