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updated: 7/19/2013 6:23 PM

No word on reopening Independence Grove this weekend

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  • Independence Grove Forest Preserve near Libertyville remains closed today due to a bomb threat. Officials said the park will not reopen until an investigation of the threat is completed.

       Independence Grove Forest Preserve near Libertyville remains closed today due to a bomb threat. Officials said the park will not reopen until an investigation of the threat is completed.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 

Lake County officials remain mum on the status of closed Independence Grove Forest Preserve, raising questions about whether it will reopen this weekend amid the investigation of a "credible" bomb threat.

The forest preserve on Route 137 near Libertyville was closed for a third consecutive day Friday. As of 6 p.m., the Lake County Forest Preserve District had made no announcement about opening the preserve on Saturday.

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Earlier Friday, forest district board President Ann Maine said it would reopen "as soon as we feel it's safe."

Officials could not say how many private and public activities would have to be canceled or shifted if Independence Grove remains closed for all or part of the weekend.

"We're in charge of deciding when the preserve is safe to open again," Maine said. "It depends on the information we get from the investigators."

Julie Kenney, a public information representative for the Chicago Division of the U.S. Postal Service, said the safest thing to do was to keep the forest preserve closed while the investigation continues.

Kenney would not provide an estimate of when the threat would be neutralized. She said no explosive devices had been located.

"Because of the threats that were made, it's best to keep the area closed and safe for right now," she said.

She added people of interest have been interviewed regarding the threats, but no one is in custody or charged with a crime at this point.

Lake County Forest Preserve District Ranger Police closed the preserve on Tuesday before a scheduled 7:30 p.m. concert at the Millennia Plaza amphitheater. The concert was canceled and anyone in the preserve at the time was told to leave due to a matter of public safety.

"Multiple" letters containing a threat were received by undisclosed recipients, officials said. The letters specified the target as a privately hosted event scheduled at the preserve, not a district function, district officials said in a news release.

Activities such as camps that had been planned this week at Independence Grove have been canceled, diverted or rescheduled, officials have said.

Ranger Police Chief John Tannahill would only say the facility is closed indefinitely during the investigation. He added the U.S. Postal Investigation Service is the lead agency, with assistance from the Lake County Forest Preserve Ranger Police and the Cook County Sheriff's Bomb Unit.

Independence Grove is the district's fourth largest and most popular preserve. According to the district, 3,688 vehicles were counted at the gatehouse at the main entrance on Saturday, July 13, and 3,809 on Sunday, July 14. The numbers do not include foot, bike, equestrian, program or event traffic.

Independence Grove features a 19,000-square-foot visitors center on the east shore of the preserve's 115-acre lake, which has a swimming beach and marina.

Maine said "people have been really understanding" about the preserve being closed but acknowledged it will affect the district's bottom line.

"There no doubt about that, but there's no way around that," she said. "We're not going to put beach revenues in front of everybody feeling safe."

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