Forest Preserves Prepared to Monitor Conditions for Overcrowding, Close More Sites if Needed
CHICAGO — The Forest Preserves of Cook County remain open, but specific locations have been closed that do not allow visitors to follow social distancing and other public health guidelines for COVID-19. Today at a press conference at Dan Ryan Woods in Chicago, the Forest Preserves announced measures to limit crowded conditions at open locations, monitor any sites where visitors are not following social distancing guidelines, and add to the list of closures if necessary.
“Each and every visitor to the Forest Preserves has new responsibilities in today’s world to be safe and to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Cook County Forest Preserves President Toni Preckwinkle. “The Forest Preserves has always offered us access to the natural world close to home and a place to be outside. But if we see places where people are not fully following their responsibility, we can and will close those locations.”
To date the Forest Preserves has closed its public buildings; all six Nature Centers, grounds, and trails; the Swallow Cliff stairs in the Palos Preserves; nature play areas, and all campgrounds. All public restrooms in the Preserves, both public and portable, are closed. The Preserves has cancelled all public events, volunteer activities and permitted events through May 11, following CDC recommendations.
“We are trying to keep open as many of our trails, lakes, woods and open fields as possible to serve as a respite from everything we all are facing—to provide places to listen to a birdsong, or have a bike ride, or look for wildflowers. To do so, we need your help by following social distancing and other public health guidelines,” said General Superintendent Arnold Randall.
Forest Preserves staff and Trail Watch volunteers have been instructed to report any crowded conditions they see. Preserves leadership is processing information directly from the public, who are encouraged to call the Preserves non-emergency public safety number to provide real-time information: 708-771-1000. The Forest Preserves has installed signs on the trails and in parking lots that remind people of the importance of social distancing, starting with the top locations where crowding might be an issue.
Forest Preserve Police Department officers have been instructed to respond where overcrowding is reported, and they will disperse crowds where people are congregating or violating the social-distancing order. Along with their regular patrols, Forest Preserves police are adding more alternative patrols to increase their presence on the trails and in the preserves.
To evaluate information from all these sources, members of the Forest Preserves senior staff are working as a rapid response, cross-departmental team, ready to close specific sites as needed.
For updated information on site closures, event cancellations, a list of recommended visitor precautions, and more, visit the Forest Preserves COVID-19 web page: