Video: A decrease in COVID-19 cases prompts the city to relax some restrictions. Amanda Vinicky has details.
The Chicago Park District announced Tuesday that lakefront parks and playgrounds will reopen, nearly a year after they were closed due to the coronavirus.
“We are thrilled that lakefront, playgrounds and indoor aquatics programs can safely reopen,” Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly said in a statement. “The district is busy preparing these facilities to open as soon as possible. Although these restrictions are being lifted, we must continue to be diligent with the safety protocols that have been instrumental in our progress.”
Though the lakefront trail reopened in June, with the caveat that people “keep it moving,” beaches have remained closed, along with parkland east of Lake Shore Drive, out of concerns about overcrowding. Barriers had been placed at various points to block people from parking along the lake. People are now sharing images on social media of those barricades being removed.
Numerous community organizations had complained about the lakefront ban, which left residents of lakefront neighborhoods lacking access to outdoor areas during coronavirus lockdowns. As temperatures cooled and the likelihood lessened of throngs gathering on beaches, the chorus of complaints grew.
The decision to fully reopen the lakefront was made in consultation with North Side aldermen whose wards include the lakefront and comes at a time when the spread of COVID-19 is at an all-time low in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
"My expectation and hope is that people will continue to do the good, hard work that is necessary to protect themselves, their family members and their neighbors and understand that the lake is a very important and precious resource that we have," Lightfoot said.
Lakefront parks will be open during normal operating hours, though large gatherings are still prohibited and social distancing must be observed. Masks are mandatory, the park district said. Parking fees will be enforced.
Though the ban has been routinely flouted, the city’s 580 playgrounds have also been off limits since March 2020. In the coming weeks, gates will be unlocked and signage will be installed regarding safety guidelines. Surfaces are not being sanitized, officials noted.
During its spring session, the park district will reopen its indoor swimming pools. Registration begins March 8, with limited capacity.
Officially open, finally. pic.twitter.com/9WVMpATzpo
— Robert Loerzel (@robertloerzel) February 23, 2021