When winter snows fall and cold winds blow, few people are likely thinking about camping or picnicking in DuPage County.
But warmer days will be here again and it's never too early to start planning outdoor gatherings.
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The DuPage County Forest Preserve District will begin accepting 2013 reservations for picnic areas and family and youth-group campsites at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2.
Reservations must be made at least three business days in advance; reservations for holiday dates should be made as early as possible.
Picnickers can choose from more than 20 reservable shelters and picnic areas that are available throughout the year for family reunions, church picnics or other gatherings. Permit fees vary based on site amenities and capacities, which range from 25 to 300.
Some shelters have fireplaces, built-in grills or electricity. In select areas, picnickers also can rent canopy tents or large-capacity grills.
Upgrades to the family campground at Blackwell Forest Preserve near Warrenville are complete. The campground will be open Friday and Saturday nights and some holidays, May through September. A new campground map is available in the "Recreation" section of the district's website, dupageforest.org, to assist campers in planning their visit.
More than 60 sites for tents, trailers and motor homes will be available, and all offer electricity. Each site includes a gravel parking pad, fire ring and picnic tables and can accommodate a maximum of eight people and two tents. The campground offers restrooms with showers and water pumps.
Family campground permit fees are $20 per site per night for DuPage County residents and $30 per night for nonresidents. Senior citizens may receive one free permit per household for a consecutive Friday and Saturday night stay.
Campers can purchase firewood for $5 per bundle. As part of districtwide efforts to help slow the spread of the emerald ash borer, outside firewood is not allowed.
Youth group campgrounds are located at the following forest preserves: Blackwell in Warrenville, Churchill Woods in Glen Ellyn, Greene Valley in Naperville, Pratt's Wayne Woods in Wayne and Waterfall Glen in Darien. Semiprimitive areas just for tents, these campgrounds are solely for use by recognized nonprofit youth groups. Permit fees vary based on site capacities, which range from 25 to 100.
Open year-round, all sites have picnic tables and fire rings; latrines, firewood and water pumps are nearby. A youth-group cabin with electricity also is available at Herrick Lake Forest Preserve in Wheaton.
All permit fees are nonrefundable. Camping-permit holders must be at least 21 years old; picnic-permit holders must be at least 18. Permit holders must remain on-site.
Located at district headquarters at 3S580 Naperville Road within the Danada Forest Preserve in Wheaton, Visitor Services processes applications from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and can be reached by phone at (630) 933-7248. Cash, check, Visa, MasterCard and Discover are accepted.