Online Permitting Available

The Forest Preserves is offering a new online system that will streamline the permitting process. The system, called ActiveNet, will allow patrons to apply electronically for a wide range of Forest Preserve permits.

  • To reserve picnic spots, request event spaces, or purchase aquatic or equestrian memberships through ActiveNet, first set up an account.
  • Once the account is set up, you will be able to review your transaction history.

However, patrons still have the option to purchase a 2014 permit in person at Forest Preserves Headquarters (536 N. Harlem, River Forest).

If you don’t see the Make Reservations option on the ActiveNet site for reserving picnic permits, please close your browser and log in again. You may be experiencing a site caching issue. Call the Permits, Concession and Volunteer Resources (PCV) department at 800-870-3666, option two, if you have any questions.

Create an Account


General permits are required for gatherings of more than 25 people on Forest Preserve property. Permit types include picnic, corporate picnic, walk-a-thon, fishing derby and many more. There are approximately 275 groves available for rental to the public. Permits may be purchased online or in person at the Forest Preserves Headquarters, 536 N. Harlem Avenue, River Forest, Illinois.

Important Information

Important Information

  • Applicants must be 21 years or older and have a valid driver’s license or state identification.
  • Individuals and organizations are limited to two picnic permits a year.
  • Permits are issued by seasonal time blocks. Hours for permits vary per season. Please see below for hours.
  • The Forest Preserves is not responsible for picnics/events cancelled due to inclement weather. Permit fees are non-refundable in cases of cancellation and/or inclement weather.
  • An account must be created in order to purchase a permit online.

Permits are valid between the following hours

Permits are valid between the following hours


Winter Hours: November through February      7:00am – 4:30pm

Spring Hours: March through May                    7:00am – 6:30pm

Summer Hours: June through August               7:00am – 8:00pm

Fall Hours: September through October            7:00am – 6:00pm

The Forest Preserves of Cook County’s Nonprofit Organization Reduced Rate Information

The Forest Preserves of Cook County’s Nonprofit Organization Reduced Rate Information

Requests for a permit made by a school or bona fide nonprofit organization, residing in the County of Cook, may receive a reduction in fees by 50%. Requests must be made in person and documentation must be provided at the time of the application. A bona fide nonprofit organization is one which is engaged in charitable, educational, civic, youth, and faith-based activities. For purposes of qualifying for the Nonprofit Organization Reduced Rate, an applicant must submit proof of the following:

  1. Exemption under Section 501 (C) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code or
  2. Current registration with the Illinois Attorney General as a charitable organization.
  3. The location of the official headquarters or administrative office of the organization submitting the request for said permits is located in the County of Cook and is the same as that which is on file with the Illinois Attorney General, or was submitted for exemption under Section 501 (C) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, except in the case of local chapters of national organization, wherein the local chapter maintains a Cook County office and submits proof of affiliation with the national organization.
  4. If the applicant is a school located within Cook County, no additional documentation or proof of nonprofit status shall be required other than a letter signed by an official of the school stating that the activity/event is officially sanctioned under and supervised by employee(s) of the school.
  5. Notwithstanding any other published deadlines, all applications for Reduced Rate Picnic or Special Use Permits must be received by the Recreation Department no less than 45 days prior to the date of the Event. All applications for Reduced Rate Permits must be submitted in person.
  6. Vending of Food or Merchandise is not allowed under the Reduced Rate Special Use Permit, except for charitable organizations with net assets of $10,000 or less who apply for the vending fee permit waiver. Qualification for the vending fee permit waiver requires registration with the Illinois Attorney General’s office as a charitable organization, and submission of a balance statement for the previous year to verify its assets at the time of application for a permit.

Applicants applying for the not-for-profit discount must also have a letter from the Not-for-Profit Organization requesting the discount, signed by an official of the requesting Organization, on Official Organization letterhead, stipulating the event is an Official Organization function.

Alcohol Free Preserves

Alcohol Free Preserves

Alcohol free preserves


Click here to download PDF.


Request to change/update existing permit

Request to change/update existing permit

Please note change requests must be submitted at least two weeks prior to event date and all Special Use requests require submission of insurance certificates/rental agreements with this form. Incomplete requests will not be accepted.


Requests for permit changes must be submitted by the applicant. A $5.00 change fee will be assessed for changes to date, location, or attendance of picnic permit. If there is a difference in grove fees, those fees will be required to be paid in full. *Additional fees may apply depending on request.
Click here for Permit Change Form.



The following permit types are available for purchase through ActiveNet and in-person at General Headquarters (536 N. Harlem, River Forest).


Basic Picnic Permit

A “Basic Picnic Permit” is issued for groups (of 25 – to 350) who wish to hold a simple picnic with no Special Use items.

Learn More

Picnic + Special Use Permit


A “Picnic + Special Use Permit” is required for picnics that wish to bring Special Use items onto Forest Preserve property. Special Use items include but are not limited to: amplified sound equipment (e.g. D.J.), beer trucks, dunk tanks, generators, inflatables, kiddie rides, on-site caterers, petting zoos/pony rides, port-o-lets/port-o-sinks, and tents.

Learn More


Special & Large-Capacity Event Permits


Special “Event” permits are required to use Forest Preserve property for a one-time event, including but not limited to one day sporting events, corporate picnics (400+ attendees), walkathons, fishing derbies, bike events, etc.

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Off-Leash Dog Area Membership


The Forest Preserves of Cook County currently operates the Beck Lake and Bremen Grove Off-Leash Dog Areas for visitors to let their dogs enjoy the preserves without a leash. Dog owners wishing to enter the Beck Lake or Bremen Grove Off-Leash Dog Areas must first purchase an annual membership.

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Aquatic Membership


The Forest Preserves of Cook County operates 3 aquatic centers located in Chicago, Lyons, and Calumet City. Green Lake and Cermak Family Aquatic Centers are incredible new recreational offerings from the Forest Preserves of Cook County for families with children 12 years of age and younger. Whealan Aquatic Center has something for all ages and offers swim lessons. Aquatic memberships can be obtained at each of the three locations.

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Equestrian Licenses & Tags


The Forest Preserves offer more than 200 miles of multi-use trails ideal for experiencing the woods and grasslands of Cook County on horseback. Every horse using the Forest Preserve trails is required to wear a horse tag. Each rider must also possess a rider’s license.

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Coming Soon! Later in 2014, you will be able to purchase the following permits, licenses and memberships through the ActiveNet system. In the meantime, you may still download the application online or submit in-person.

Camping Permit


The Forest Preserves of Cook County currently operates overnight camping facilities for youth organizations at Camp Alphonse. In late 2014 and 2015, five new family campsites will open in the Forest Preserves.

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Indoor Event Facilities


The Forest Preservesof Cook County offers 3 indoor room rental facilities. Rooms can be rented out for private parties, weddings, birthdays, communions, baptisms and organizational meetings.

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Snowmobiling Permit


Snowmobiling is allowed at 5 designated locations in Cook County. Snowmobiles must be registered with both the State of Illinois and the Forest Preserves (proof of insurance is required). Snowmobile areas are opened when a minimum 4 inch snow base exists on frozen turf and temperatures are constant 20° or less.

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The following permit types must be purchased in-person at our general headquarters or by fax or mail.

Day Camp Permit


The Forest Preserves offers Day Camp Permits to Organized Youth Organizations wishing to utilize Forest Preserve property for daily use.

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Athletic Field Permits

Athletic Field Permits are issued for the use of Forest Preserve property for Sporting Activities, such as Baseball, Football, Rugby and Soccer, for multiple days, in designated fields. Field Permits are required for organizations and groups of 25 persons or more. Athletic Field Permits will be available for purchase in-person on February 7, 2014 at our General Headquarters.

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Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County