Additional parking lots at popular Cook County forest preserves will be closed over Memorial Day weekend to prevent overcrowding and violations of Illinois' stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic, the county announced Monday.
In addition to the six parking lots closed on a weekly basis, those at Dan Ryan Woods and Schiller Woods will also shut down to the public as forest preserve officials urge residents to "spend the upcoming Memorial Day at home."
“Memorial Day is a time when we pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. As an unofficial start to summer, the holiday is always one of our busiest weekends in the Forest Preserves. This year, that’s not a safe way to celebrate. We hope that with Memorial Day at Home, our patrons will find other creative ways to honor the fallen and to be with family,” Arnold Randall, the general superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, said in a statement.
The closures will be in place from May 22 through May 25, authorities said. Picnics, cookouts, group sports and gatherings with people outside your household are also prohibited, officials said.
The six parking lots already closed on weekends include Busse Woods in Elk Grove Village; Maple Lake and Saganashkee Slough in the Palos Preserves near Willow Springs; Catherine Chevalier Woods and LaBagh Woods in Chicago; and Bunker Hill in Niles.
“It’s in response to the fact that people are not observing social distancing," Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said at a press conference last month, adding, "we don’t want the preserves to be a contributor in the spread of the pandemic.”
Nature centers, restrooms and campgrounds were already closed, but picnic tables are now being turned over by staff to promote smart use of the area.
Forest Preserves Police will cite violators of the ban. Tickets come with fees of up to $500.
Instead, authorities recommend alternative activities to do at home, such as:
- Remember the reason for Memorial Day: Find a creative way to honor those who have given their lives while serving in the Armed Forces. This year, thanks can include our first responders and medical staff on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
- Share your grill: Post a photo of your impressive or intriguing barbeque or family meal—or give us a glimpse of your famous family recipe. Tag the Forest Preserves on Instagram and we’ll share the best of the best, @fpdcc.
- Order in from a local restaurant: Support your local economy in these difficult times and enjoy a meal from a favorite spot or a local restaurant you have never tried before.
- Connect with nature: Enjoy the natural world in your backyard or neighborhood. Find activities, information and videos about local plants and wildlife from Forest Preserves naturalists at www.fpdcc.com/nature-at-home
“We continue to honor the veterans who have given their lives serving our country. However, we must be responsible. We should represent our veterans by being safe and staying at home,” Bill Browne, the Cook County director of Veterans Affairs, said in a statement. “The more we act responsibly, the more lives we’ll save."