From picnic permits to the Swallow Cliff Stairs, options return for visitors over the next few weeks
To coincide with the move to Phase Four of the Office of the Governor’s Restore Illinois plan, over the next two weeks the Forest Preserves of Cook County will reopen its iconic Swallow Cliff Stairs and the grounds and trails at its six nature centers, add more camping options, end weekend parking lot closures, make many public restrooms available again, and reestablish permitted events for groups under 50 people.
“As our region’s benchmark indicators for COVID-19 allow for Phase Four activities, we are re-opening many amenities and sites that have been closed for months. From the start of this pandemic, our approach has been to keep as much available as possible while following public health guidelines. We’re excited to be able to provide more within that framework,” said Arnold Randall, the General Superintendent of the Forest Preserves.
Beginning July 1, more RV, tent sites and cabins will be available at the Forest Preserves’ recently opened campgrounds: Camp Reinberg, Camp Sullivan, Camp Shabbona Woods and Camp Bullfrog Lake, and the sites will become available Wednesday through Sunday (RV sites are open throughout the week). Limited capacity bunkhouses at Camp Sullivan for family groups will also be available. Shower facilities will open starting July 3.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, parking lot closures will be in effect for the last time at six locations: Busse Woods, Maple Lake, Saganashkee Slough, Catherine Chevalier Woods, LaBagh Woods and Bunker Hill. The Forest Preserves is adding three preserves to that list for the holiday weekend: Dan Ryan Woods, Green Lake Woods and Schiller Woods. At all these sites, parking lots will be closed Friday, July 3, through Sunday, July 5.
On July 6, the Forest Preserves will reopen the grounds, trails and bathrooms at all six nature centers: Crabtree, Little Red Schoolhouse, River Trail, Sagawau, Sand Ridge and Trailside. The sites will be open seven days a week, 8 am to 4 pm. Parking lots will be at 50 percent of capacity to limit the size of crowds on site.
Starting July 6, current permits for picnics and other indoor and outdoor events of 50 or fewer people can proceed; new permits will be available for dates after August 1.The permit department at Forest Preserves General Headquarters will open by appointment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, although service by phone or email is preferred.
On July 9, the Forest Preserves will reopen the Swallow Cliff Stairs near Palos Park and the parking lots for the site and other adjoining preserves. Many public restrooms that have been closed since early March will reopen on July 9 as well, and groups of up to 25 can once again grill and bring in coolers.
“Year after year, the Fourth of July is about our busiest weekend in the Forest Preserves. Our plan is to maintain current conditions through that critical weekend and prepare for modified operations at reopening locations,” General Superintendent Randall said. “Looking at the spike of the virus in other states, we again urge all our visitors to follow COVID-19 best practices—physical distance, wear a mask, wash your hands. Let’s stay in Phase Four and have a healthy and safe summer.”
For updated information on-site closures, event cancellations, a list of recommended visitor precautions and more, visit the Forest Preserves COVID-19 web page.
About the Forest Preserves of Cook County
Don’t you sometimes just want to escape? Explore the natural beauty of Cook County for an hour, a day or even a night. When you’re surrounded by 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful there’s no better place to feel free.