All Forest Preserve District preserve access area parking lots, boat launches and dog parks are now closed through April 30 due to the extension of the stay-at-home mandate issued Tuesday, March 31, by Gov. J.B. Pritzker as a result of the new coronavirus pandemic.
All preserve parking lot gates are closed and barricades are placed at entrances to parking lots at Rock Run Preserve - Paul V. Nichols and Hadley Valley - Route 6 access in an effort to reduce the large number of people parking at these locations.
Trails will remain open as long as they can be accessed safely on foot and bicycle and people continue to practice social distancing of at least 6 feet as recommended by federal health authorities.
Shoreline fishing is also allowed as long as social distancing is practiced. Kayaking is not allowed at this time due to the closure of parking lots and limited active police patrol for safety. The launching of boats also will not be allowed until the preserve access areas reopen.
Dog parks are being closed because they are gathering places that place people in closer proximity to each other, which could lead to the spread of COVID-19.
"We are asking everyone to try to adhere to the governor’s stay-at-home mandate, which asks the public to eliminate unnecessary travel," said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve's chief operating officer. "We want people to be able to enjoy nature, but we all still must adhere to the state's stay-at-home mandate."
The cancellation of all public programs and all volunteer workdays also will be extended through April 30, and all registered program participants will be contacted. If programs are rescheduled later in the spring or summer, they will be added to the online Event Calendar.
Forest Preserve latrines also remain closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus based on COVID-19 prevention guidelines.
During this time period, members of the public can still call the District's main number, 815.727.8700, or fill out a Contact Us form online if they need assistance or have questions.
The District also has closed all five of its visitor centers, including its Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet, and suspended the sale of wedding, picnicking and camporee permits through April 30 due to state and federal health guidelines about limiting gatherings.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to limit social gatherings to 10 people or less and to keep a social distance of 6 feet or more from others to prevent the spread of the disease.
The closures and cancellations are being instituted to help reduce a possible spike in COVID-19 cases, similar to those seen in other countries affected by the virus, which would overwhelm health care providers and facilities, said Schultz.
"We want to do our best for the community at large," he explained. "The health of the public and our staff is our primary concern in taking these measures. We don't want to be a part of the problem, but instead want to be a part of the solution."
The vestibule at the Forest Preserve's police headquarters will remain open so people can pay tickets by using a drop box between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visitors can push the call button for assistance. Ticket payments also can be mailed to: Forest Preserve Police, 22606 S. Cherry Hill Road, Joliet, IL 60434.
The District will continue to review its operations and how they might be affected by COVID-19 on a daily basis, and updates will be posted on the Current Headlines section of the District's website and sent to local media outlets throughout this sensitive time period.
Forest Preserve officials urge everyone to protect their health and safety by following all CDC public health guidelines and to check back often to be aware of the latest coronavirus news and public health advice. Will County has established a coronavirus response hotline: 815.740.8977, which is operational from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and COVID-19 information is available at this website.
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