Now that the state has entered phase four of its COVID-19 reopening plan, the Forest Preserve District is following suit by reopening some amenities while still adhering to state guidelines that are designed to limit the spread of the disease.
Forest Preserve latrines, water fountains and visitor centers are now open, permits for groups of 50 or less can be booked, program capacity will expand and Monee Reservoir rentals will begin.
With these changes, the Forest Preserve would like to stress that the public should continue to be vigilant in protecting themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19, a pandemic that continues to cause illness and deaths around the world.
Here are the changes that will take place in the Forest Preserve District under phase four:
The Forest Preserve District began reopening latrines June 26 on a rolling basis as crews made their rounds, and all latrines are now open. Please note: The latrines will only be cleaned twice a week. So it is up to individuals to take precautions necessary to protect themselves from the spread of COVID-19. Latrines do not have running water or soap, so bring disinfecting wipes and a hand sanitizer with you. The Centers for Disease Control recommends, "Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and rub hands together until dry, if soap and water are not readily available."
Visitor centers are now open and there are capacity limits. Also, visitors will be encouraged to wear masks and use social distancing while inside the buildings. Hand sanitizer will be available to visitors and staff. Restrooms and drinking fountains will be open and sanitized twice a day. High-touch items have been modified or removed from the buildings, including iPads, touchscreens, exhibits and interactive play items.
Water fountains and hand pumps are now operational throughout the preserves.
Picnics and camping permits
Online picnic and camping permits are now available for groups of 50 or less, the limit for public gatherings set by the state. Reservations can once again be placed in person at visitor centers when they reopen.
Programs will be modified to allow for up to 10 participants indoors and 50 outdoors. Indoor spaces will be sanitized before and after each program. Zoom webinars will continue to be offered online. The Event Calendar will continue to include the full list of program offerings and registration details as information becomes available.
Boat and equipment rentals will begin June 30. Boats and all rental equipment (trolling motors, fishing poles, personal flotation devices and boat cushions) will be cleaned and disinfected after each use. The concessions area reopened June 5 to sell bait, tackle, snacks, fishing licenses and kayak/canoe launch passes, both daily and seasonal.
All six Forest Preserve District dog parks reopened June 8. But the Forest Preserve District is urging all dog park patrons to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice on its FAQ page for COVID-19 and Animals.
Half-year dog park permits, which are half price, have been available since June 9 online or via mail. Visit the Dog Exercising page for information. The permits can be purchased in person at visitor centers once they reopen.
Dog park permit holders will be compensated for the loss of the use of Forest Preserve dog parks during the stay-at-home order. A discount of 25 percent will be offered to current permit holders when they purchase 2021 dog park permits.
Trails and preserves
Trails and preserves have all remained open during the pandemic to afford visitors outdoor recreation opportunities. Parking lots were closed in mid-March to reduce the number of visitors and to encourage people to stay close to home, but the lots reopened May 1 after Illinois entered phase three of its reopening plan.
Shoreline fishing allowed
Shoreline fishing is allowed (in areas where this activity is not prohibited by signage) as long as social distancing is practiced.
When preserve parking lots reopened May 1, boat, kayak and canoe launches all reopened as well.
Event cancellations, postponements
"Food Truck Fridays," "Arts & Nature on the River," "Hummingbird Fest and Nature Celebration," and "Riverview Farmstead Open House" have been canceled for 2020.
A modified "Plant By Numbers" exhibit began June 1 at Isle a la Cache preserve in Romeoville. The "Found Objects Sculpture Trail" exhibition also debuted June 1 at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve in Crete Township. The "Top Ten Truths About Native Peoples" exhibit at Isle a la Cache Museum and the "Don't be a Zombie! Be Prepared" exhibit at Plum Creek Nature Center will both be rescheduled at a later date.
Additionally, bird viewing programs at Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve have been canceled for the season.
The "Pedal the Prairie" bicycle rides have been rescheduled to:
- Saturday, September 5: Hickory Creek Preserve loop from Barrens Nature Preserve to LaPorte Road Access and south to Old Plank Road Trail
- Saturday, September 19: Lower Rock Run Preserve – I&M Canal Access to Dresden Dam
- Saturday, September 26: Sugar Creek Preserve to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
Police ticket payments
Police tickets can be paid by mail. Send payments to: Forest Preserve Police, 22606 S. Cherry Hill Road, Joliet IL 60434. Or they can be paid at the police vestibule drop box at that location from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Ring the call button if assistance is needed.
Protect yourself and others
While more sites are reopening under the state's phase four plan, health officials still recommend precautions be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Wear masks if you can't maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from others. Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. Bring hand sanitizer with you if you can't wash your hands with soap and water. Use disinfecting wipes on surfaces that may have been touched by others. Choose to visit outdoor recreational sites that are less crowded or go at a time when there will be fewer people at the same location. According to the Centers for Disease Control, you should not visit a park or a preserve, " ... if you are sick with, tested positive for COVID-19, or know you were recently exposed to COVID-19."
Informational COVID-19 signs have been installed at all preserve entrances and trailheads to help educate visitors on how they can protect their own health and the health of others during this pandemic.
Members of the public can contact the Forest Preserve by calling 815.727.8700 or by filling out a Contact Us form.
For more coronavirus information and assistance
For information on the new coronavirus in Will County, visit this website or call the Will County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline, 815.740.8977, which is operational from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday.
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