Lake Co. Forest Preserves Announce Phase 4 Openings

Amie Schaenzer

LAKE COUNTY, IL —Now that the state is in Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, the Lake County Forest Preserves has released more information regarding amenities and facilities that are currently open and which ones will remain closed due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. Meanwhile, forest preserve officials say more people than ever before stopped out to utilize local forest preserve sites and the 206 miles of trails during the pandemic.

Since mid-March, records have been set for forest preserve usage, said Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves.

Visits to Lake Co. Forest Preserves in May increased by 18 percent compared to the busiest summer weekend in any of the previous four years, said John Nelson, director of operations and infrastructure. Meanwhile, the daily average visitation in April was 60 percent greater than the busiest summer weekend in any of the previous four years, he said.

"People are rediscovering the value of being outside in nature and are utilizing the preserves and trails more than ever before,” Kyle said.

Here is a look at what is currently open/available within the Lake County Forest Preserves District:

  • Preserves are open 6:30 a.m. to sunset daily. If a parking lot is full, this interactive trail map can help residents find another nearby preserve.
  • The forest preserves district has opened 51 of the 83 public restrooms. Face masks are required to be worn in restrooms where more than one toilet is present. Bring your own alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which contains at least 60 percent alcohol, as well as face coverings. Restrooms are cleaned daily and this map outlines which preserve restrooms are open: LCFPD.org/restrooms.
  • The general offices in Libertyville are open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day and the operations and public safety facility in Lake Villa is open from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. Plexiglass has been installed for additional safety, and residents are encouraged to bring their own alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60 percent alcohol) and face coverings.
  • The model aircraft field at Van Patten Woods in Wadsworth is open and permits are available for purchase.
  • The dog parks at Lake County Forest Preserves are open with special safety guidelines in place: LCFPD.org/dogs. Access is limited to annual permit holders only.
  • An array of virtual nature and history programs, summer camps, school field trips, and digital resources are available. Browse all virtual education offerings and register online. Follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @LCFPD for more educational resources, webinars and videos.
  • All golf courses are open with some operational restrictions. View all golf guidelines here.
  • Fishing is permitted at many lakes and ponds in forest preserves throughout Lake County as long as safe social distancing is practiced.
  • The marina and public boat launch at Fox River Forest Preserve in Port Barrington are open. All other buildings at the preserve remain closed.
  • Des Plaines River canoe launches are open.
  • Boat launches are open at Van Patten Woods in Wadsworth, Grant Woods in Ingleside, and Hastings Lake in Lake Villa.
  • Greenbelt Cultural Center in North Chicago is booking events for 2021.

What's closed or canceled:

  • Most public buildings, visitor centers, playgrounds and drinking fountains are closed.
  • In-person programs, summer camps and special events are canceled.
  • The Bess Bower Dunn Museum in Libertyville is closed. A future reopening date is undetermined.
  • Youth group camping areas are closed.
  • Picnic shelter rentals and open area reservations are canceled.
  • Banquet and facility rentals at Independence Grove in Libertyville, Greenbelt Cultural Center, and ThunderHawk Golf Club in Beach Park are canceled for 2020.
  • Special use permits for third-party events held within the preserves are canceled.
  • Golf outings are canceled for the season.
  • All summer concerts at Independence Grove and Greenbelt Cultural Center are canceled.
  • The beach and marina at Independence Grove are closed for the 2020 season.
  • Restoration workdays and other volunteer activities and projects are canceled at this time.

Though preserve and trail use has increased during the pandemic, revenues has decreased because of the many cancellations and closures.

"Losses are coming from a variety of areas," Kovach said. Concerts, beach, marina, facility rentals and other activities at Independence Grove have been canceled. All in-person programs, summer camps and special events have been canceled. There are fewer permit sales for special use areas.

And, the Dunn Museum remains closed, he said.

“We are also losing revenue from catering, concessions and equipment rentals at Independence Grove, and from the cancelation of banquets, meetings and outings at the Greenbelt Cultural Center and a few of our golf courses,” he said. “At this point in time, we are estimating a total loss of about $1 million as a result of the pandemic,” Kovach said.

Before heading out

For all details on what's open or closed due to COVID-19 concerns, visit LCFPD.org/COVID-19-Updates.

For preserve trail and underpass closures due to seasonal flooding and related trail repair projects, check this interactive map. Public access is restricted at closed trails and underpasses. Please follow signage, and use caution around closures, construction or detour zones.

Bring the outside in by following the Lake County Forest Preservers (@LCFPD) on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter for inspiration.

This article originally appeared on the Libertyville Patch