Forest Preserves of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle announced at a press conference that the Forest Preserves will institute a weekend parking closure policy at six sites that have had issues with overcrowding or visitors consistently disregarding social distancing and other COVID-19 public health guidelines. Across all locations, Forest Preserves Police officers will begin issuing citations to individuals disregarding public health rules.
To limit the number of visitors, parking lots will be closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday through at least May 30 at 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. The policy will begin on Saturday, April 25.
“I have been clear that we cannot and will not allow locations in the Forest Preserves to contribute to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These are among the most popular sites in the Forest Preserves. Unfortunately, we have seen that on warm weekend days, these locations have become too popular, with too many visitors who are not following critical public health guidelines,” said President Preckwinkle.
In mid-March, the Forest Preserves cancelled all public events and closed specific sites that do not easily allow for social distancing, including nature centers, campgrounds and the Swallow Cliff stairs. Since then, the Preserves has added several other locations to the list—to avoid crowds on the first day of trout season, for example, or because of traffic problems in relatively small lots. This new set of parking lot closures is the first weekend ban.
“At each step of the way, we have endeavored to take a strategic approach to keeping nature and the outdoors accessible to as many people as we can, while always making the safety of our visitors the number one factor,” said General Superintendent Arnold Randall. “The weekend parking ban is based on what we’ve learned from daily observation from our staff, patrols by our police, and reports from the public. I urge people to follow social distancing and other guidelines, so we do not have to take further steps to limit access to the preserves.”
General Superintendent Randall also announced that Forest Preserves Police will issue citations to individuals showing a willful disregard for public health and safety rules for issues such as social distancing, large gatherings and using clearly closed restrooms. “People should know that coming to the Preserves with the intention of having a cookout or meeting with their friends can lead to a citation with a penalty of up to $500,” he said.
“Cook County is lucky to have the open land and access to the natural world that Forest Preserves provides. Especially in these difficult times, I know going out to the Preserves offers great benefits for physical and mental health,” President Preckwinkle said. “Yet with warmer weather coming, we need to remain steadfast against the spread of COVID-19. We have seen the start of a problem in these locations, and we are stopping it as judiciously as we can.”
For updated information on site closures, event cancellations, a list of recommended visitor precautions, and more, visit the Forest Preserves COVID-19 web page: