Cook County Forest Preserve officials are getting ahead of anticipated crowds for Memorial Day weekend, warning visitors of added site closures and encouraging area residents to heed some familiar advice: just stay home.
“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,” said Arnold Randall, general superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
To limit gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, Forest Preserve officials have announced that parking lots will be closed Friday, May 22, through Monday, May 25, at numerous sites: Dan Ryan Woods and Schiller Woods have been added to the list of existing weekend closures in place at Bunker Hill, Busse Woods, Catherine Chevalier Woods, LaBagh Woods, Maple Lake, Pulaski Woods, Saganashkee Slough and Wolf Road Woods.
Visitors to any of the preserves will be expected to adhere to physical distancing guidelines. Traditional holiday activities such as cookouts, picnics, group sports or family reunions are off the table, officials said.
Instead, the Forest Preserves is promoting “Memorial Day at Home” and suggesting alternative ways to observe the holiday:
— Post a photo of your barbecue or share a family recipe. Tag the Forest Preserves @fpdcc on Instagram.
— Order in from a neighborhood restaurant to support the local economy.
— Connect with nature — in your back yard or neighborhood. Forest Preserve naturalists have posted activities, videos and information online about local plants and wildlife.
And don’t forget the reason for Memorial Day, which honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
“We should represent our veterans by being safe and staying at home,” said Bill Browne, the Cook County director of Veterans Affairs. “The more we act responsibly, the more lives we’ll save.”
In mid-March, the Forest Preserves canceled all public events and closed specific sites that do not easily allow for social distancing, including nature centers, campgrounds and the Swallow Cliff stairs. Additional closures were put in place in response to changing conditions or public health guidelines.
For updated information on site closures, event cancellations, a list of recommended visitor precautions and more, visit the Forest Preserves COVID-19 web page.