Naperville Park District Will Sue to Reopen More Quickly

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The Naperville Park District will reopen some of its facilities and programs on June 1 and plans to take legal action in an effort to reopen entirely on its own timeframe, rather than in adherence with Gov. J.B. Pritzker's coronavirus recovery plan for Illinois.

The Naperville Park Board voted Thursday in favor of "seeking authority through emergency court action" to allow the Board's commissioners to "make reopening decisions that are in the best interest of our community."

"Naperville has bent the curve, the damage done in quarantine with higher rates of abuse as well as the mental impacts to our youth far outweigh any risk with an educated population at this point," the Board meeting's agenda reads. "The Governor of Illinois continues to move the bar, there is no justification to paint with such a wide brush."

On Thursday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the IDES has processed over one-million traditional unemployment benefits claims, and while that number has never been higher, Pritzker insists it’s still not safe to reopen the state. NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern reports.

The Board also highlighted the limitation of only twosomes being allowed to golf together under the current stay-at-home order, which took effect May 1 and allowed golf courses to reopen with restrictions.

"Moreover, there is no acceptable rationale where a family of four who lives together cannot share a tee time which demonstrates how the Governors [sic] orders are arbitrary and capricious," the Board's agenda reads.

A spokeswoman for the Naperville Park District said Monday that the organization was preparing a lawsuit but it had not yet been filed.

"As a local unit of government, the Park District’s operations are recognized as essential under the Governor’s Executive Order and the District is vested with the statutory power over the District’s properties and programs. We intend to fulfill our mission to provide recreation opportunities for our residents,” Park Board President Rich Janor said Friday in a statement.

"We understand that an important part of being healthy includes staying active and that includes being able to use some of the outdoor amenities and operate some of the programs that the District provides. The Governor’s Executive Order improperly interferes with the Board’s ability to make those decisions," he continued.

The Naperville Park District said in its statement Friday announcing the vote that several facilities and programs will reopen June 1. Those include: paddleboats at the Quarry, disc golf at Knoch Knolls Park, skate parks, sport courts and parking lots. Basketball rims will also be reinstalled June 1, and staff members that were working remotely will transition back to working in the office on that date as well, the park district said.

Registration for summer programs will begin on June 1 and registration for Naperville's fall youth soccer programs will begin the following day, officials said, adding that the city's annual 95th Street Farmers Market will open for the season on June 4.

The park district said summer camps will be run this season starting June 15, with "significant modifications to promote health and safety of participants through smaller size groups and social distancing practices." Youth athletic programs will take place with reduced roster sizes as well.

The park district said it was awaiting IDPH guidance on the reopening of its Centennial Beach but had established a tentative reopening date of June 20.

Illinois remains under a stay-at-home order through the end of the month, prohibiting all activity and gatherings not deemed essential. All four regions of Illinois are currently in phase two of the "Restore Illinois" plan Gov. J.B. Pritzker put forth earlier this month, on track to enter phase three on May 29 based on data like positivity rate of coronavirus tests, hospital admissions, ICU capacity and more.

Winnebago County will allow restaurants, child care facilities and churches to reopen on June 1, nearly a month earlier than the timeline outlined in Illinois’ reopening plan, Rockford’s mayor says. Sandra Torres reports.

In phase three, gatherings of 10 people or fewer are allowed, and limited child care and summer programs can open with safety guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and more, according to the plan. But some local officials have already taken legal action against Pritzker, seeking to reopen sectors of the economy more quickly.

When asked about the Board's vote in his daily briefing on Friday, Pritzker expressed dismay at their decision.

"All I can say is that they should be following the data and the science here and not their gut," Pritzker said. "I too, would like to allow all children, my own included, to go participate in summer sports in group fashion. And I hope we'll be able to do that soon enough as we move through the phases of the Restore Illinois plan, but I recommend against it."

"And of course, people have every right to go to the courts. Too many people choose that, I think in this circumstance, and so, I realize that the local officials there are going to do whatever it is that they want to do, but I wish they would show some leadership," he added.

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