Under phase three of the state's COVID-19 pandemic reopening plan, the Forest Preserve District will schedule small-scale outdoor programs and a slate of online offerings via Zoom.
The Event Calendar will be updated to include these programs as information becomes available.
The concessions area at Monee Reservoir Visitor Center will reopen June 5, and preserves, trails and boat launches will remain open.
However, all visitor centers, dog parks, playgrounds, latrines and water fountains are scheduled to remain closed until phase four of the state's reopening plan, and the decision to reopen will depend on the latest public health advisories at that time. The closures are remaining in effect to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
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.
"Social distancing directives will continue to apply and we encourage the use of face masks when social distancing isn't possible," said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve Districts chief operating officer. "Our Forest Preserve Police will continue to patrol our preserves to ensure visitors adhere to the state's guidelines for their safety and the safety of others.”
Here is a summary of what is closed and open and the status of programs and permits:
Trails and preserves are open to local visitors
Trails and preserves have remained open during the stay-at-home order and access areas parking lots reopened May 1. Members of the public must continue to help limit the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing of at least 6 feet as recommended by health authorities. Groups cannot gather in numbers larger than 10 and they will be cited by police if they do so.
Boating and kayaking/canoeing
Forest Preserve boat launches opened May 1. Visitors must follow the state's order of no more than 10 people in a boat.
The visitor center's concessions area will open June 5 and bait, tackle, snacks, fishing licenses and kayak/canoe launch passes, both daily and seasonal, will be available for purchase. Boat rentals at the site will not resume until further notice.
Shoreline fishing allowed
Shoreline fishing is allowed (in areas where this activity is not prohibited by signage) as long as social distancing is practiced.
Facility and site closures
All visitor centers, latrines and water fountains will remain closed until further notice to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
At this time, dog parks are scheduled to remain closed until phase four of the state's reopening plan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people should, "avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather," on its "If You Have Pets" COVID-19 page.
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 at least 20 percent will be offered to current permit holders when they purchase 2021 dog park permits. The percentage could increase if the dog parks remain closed for a longer duration.
Outdoor programs will resume, but they will be limited to 10 people, including the instructor.
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 will begin June 1 at Isle a la Cache preserve. 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
All permits have been canceled for picnicking, camping and events. No future permit reservations can be placed until further notice.
Police ticket payments
During this time period, 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.
And as always, the Forest Preserve recommends everyone follow guidelines established by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as they resume outdoor recreation in the preserves:
Take precautions before visiting a preserve
The District is urging members of the public to adopt all outdoor recreation safety measures recommended by the state as they visit the preserves. Here are the guidelines issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources:
- Bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60 percent alcohol) and face coverings.
- Practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others.
- Stay home if you are sick or feeling any symptoms, such as fever, coughing, troubled breathing, and/or flu-like symptoms.
- Visit alone or with members of your household.
- Stay local; visit preserves that are closest to where you live.
- If you arrive at a preserve and crowds are forming, please move to another area or return another time/day to visit.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper arm/elbow.
People should not be congregating in the preserves and at trailheads, which could spread COVID-19. It may be necessary to temporarily close sites where social distancing is not being maintained. A spike in cases will overwhelm healthcare centers and workers and more people could die.
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.
Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.