Picnic & Outdoor Event Permits

people at a picnic shelter

The Forest Preserves’ nearly 300 picnic groves are popular locations for outdoor events of all sizes.

On this page:


Apply for a Permit

Picnic and event permits may only be purchased online or in person. You must be 21 years old to purchase a permit.


Apply Online


Apply in Person


General Headquarters & Permit Office
536 N Harlem Ave
800-870-3666

General Hours:
Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 4:30pm

Memorial Day to Labor Day Hours:
Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 4:30pm
Sat: 9am – 2pm


Dan Ryan Woods Visitor Center
S Western Ave & W 87th St

Memorial Day to Labor Day Hours:
Tue & Thu: 8:30am – 4:30pm
Sat: 9am – 2pm


Permit Types & Requirements

Your permit type, fees, requirements and deadlines will vary depending on the details of your event.


Basic Event Permit

Definition

  • Private event
  • 25 – 399 attendees
  • May feature Special Use Items
  • *Examples: Family reunion, birthday party, quinceañera, graduation party, wedding, corporate picnic

*The Forest Preserves also rents indoor event spaces for private events.


Fees

Fees, requirements and deadlines vary depending on the details of your event. Requests received within two weeks of event date are subject to denial or a $25 late fee.


Application Deadlines

  • Online: 14 days prior to event
  • In person: 14 days prior to event
  • Permit changes: 14 days prior to event
    • Permit Change Form (PDF)
    • Change requests received within two weeks of event date are subject to denial or a $25 late fee.

Additional Requirements

Events that feature Special Use Items require:

  • The Special Use Items request form and related documentation must be submitted at least 14 days prior to the event.
  • A Certificate of Liability Insurance with the endorsement attached, naming the Forest Preserves of Cook County as an additional insured in the amount of $1,000,000 per occurrence. All documentation must be submitted and approved at least 10 business days prior to the event.
    • Sample Certificate of Liability Insurance (PDF)
    • One-day event insurance is sometimes available through a home insurance policy. Some permit holders obtain insurance online as well. If renting a Special Use Item, most rental companies provide insurance for a fee—be sure to ask before you rent.

Special/Athletic/Other Event Permit

Definition

  • Any size event with additional features such as, but not limited to: routes, vendors, promotions, ticket sales or fundraising.
  • Any event with 400+ attendees (total includes staff, volunteers, etc.)
  • Examples: Festival, fundraiser, 5K walk/run, fishing derby

Fees

Fees, requirements and deadlines vary depending on the details of your event. Requests received within two weeks of event date are subject to denial or a $25 late fee.


Application Deadlines

  • 25 – 399 attendees: 30 days prior to event
  • 400 – 999 attendees: 45 days prior to event
  • 1,000+ attendees: 60 days prior to event
  • Permit changes: 14 days prior to event
    • Permit Change Form (PDF)
    • Change requests received within two weeks of event date are subject to denial or a $25 late fee.

Additional Requirements

Upon receipt of your application, a Permit Administrator is assigned. The Permit Administrator will evaluate your application, reserve the space requested and provide you with more specific requirements/fees for your event.

All required documentation is due at least two weeks prior to the event date. Requirements that are not fulfilled before the two-week deadline may result in cancellation of your permit, or a late fee.

Additional requirements may include:

  • Special Use Items: If your event features Special Use Items, the Special Use Items request form and related documentation must be submitted at least 14 days prior to the event.
  • Insurance: A Certificate of Liability Insurance with the endorsement attached, naming the Forest Preserves of Cook County as an additional insured in the amount of $1,000,000 per occurrence. All documentation must be submitted and approved at least 10 business days prior to the event.
  • Large Events: Events with 400+ attendees must take place in designated large event areas.
  • Clean-up Plan: Due to the impact of large and special events, additional maintenance requirements may apply—including portable bathroom and dumpster rental and a detailed plan for post-event clean-up.
  • Safety Plan: To ensure the safety of our patrons and the participants of your event, a Safety Plan may be needed. Required documents may include: event layout, first aid station, on-site security, route, signage, transportation/parking plan, emergency response plan.
  • On-site Meeting: To reduce day of event issues, the Forest Preserves may require an on-site meeting with event organizers. On-site meetings should be completed no less than 30-45 days prior to the event.

Special Use Items

Definition

Items not naturally found in a forest preserve are typically considered Special Use Items.

Examples include, but are not limited to: amplified sound (DJ, stereo system, live band, etc.), generators, grills wider than 5 feet, inflatables, on-site catering, portable bathrooms or snack machines. If you are unsure if your event requires adding a Special Use Item to your permit, please contact us.


Fees

Fees, requirements and deadlines vary depending on the details of your event. Requests received within two weeks of event date are subject to denial or a $25 late fee.


Application Deadlines

  • 14 days prior to event

Additional Requirements

  • You must have an approved or pending Basic Permit or Special/Athletic/Other Event Permit before adding Special Use Items to your permit.
  • Insurance: A Certificate of Liability Insurance with the endorsement attached, naming the Forest Preserves of Cook County as an additional insured in the amount of $1,000,000 per occurrence. All documentation must be submitted and approved at least 10 business days prior to the event.

Maps & Important Resources


Preparing for Your Event


Approved Vendors

Picnic and event permit holders can obtain Special Use Items directly through approved vendors without any additional insurance requirements. You are not required to use an approved vendor.


Portable Bathroom Rental

Picnic and event permit holders can rent Portable Bathrooms directly through the Forest Preserves. You are not required to rent from the Forest Preserves.


Non-profit Discount

A bona fide non-profit organization is one which is engaged in charitable, educational, civic, youth and faith-based activities. For purposes of qualifying for the reduced rate, an applicant must submit proof of the following:

  • Exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; or current registration with the Illinois Attorney General as a charitable organization; and
  • The location of the official headquarters or administrative office of the organization submitting the request for said permit 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 organizations, wherein the local chapter maintains a Cook County office and submits proof of affiliation with the national organization.

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, and/or use is officially sanctioned under and supervised by employee(s) of the school.


Apply for Non-profit Discount

Required non-profit documentation can be included with your application when applying in person, or submitted later when applying online. Non-profits that apply online will be reimbursed 4 to 6 weeks after documentation is approved. Documentation must be received and approved 14 days prior to event date.


Help

Contact us at fpd.permits@cookcountyil.gov or (800) 870-3666. If you already have a permit, please include your permit number and date of event in the subject of your email.

Please note that during busy periods email responses may take up to two business days.


Locations

General Headquarters & Permit Office
536 N Harlem Ave
800-870-3666

General Hours:
Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 4:30pm

Memorial Day to Labor Day Hours:
Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 4:30pm
Sat: 9am – 2pm


Dan Ryan Woods Visitor Center
S Western Ave & W 87th St

Memorial Day to Labor Day Hours:
Tue & Thu: 8:30am – 4:30pm
Sat: 9am – 2pm