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posted: 7/22/2013 5:34 PM

With threat passed, all is normal at Independence Grove

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  • Independence Grove Forest Preserve, which includes a swimming beach, reopened Saturday after being closed for three days because of a bomb threat.

      Independence Grove Forest Preserve, which includes a swimming beach, reopened Saturday after being closed for three days because of a bomb threat.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer


Visitors who had been aware of the bomb threat to a private event that kept the Independence Grove Forest Preserve near Libertyville closed for three days last week had no qualms about coming back Monday as full activities continued.

An investigation continues but authorities said the threat was specific and has passed.

"I knew the problem was resolved and life goes on. No worries at all," said Michael Ushkow, a Lake Villa resident who brought his son, Clay, 12, and nephew, Aiden, 10, to the beach at one of the Lake County Forest Preserve District's most popular preserves.

John Bowman of Gurnee said he visits three or four times a week to walk and read. Last Tuesday, he was readying for the evening concert at Independence Grove when he got a call from a friends saying it had been canceled and everyone was told to leave.

Independence Grove didn't reopen until Saturday morning. The weekly concert at Millennia Plaza will be held Tuesday as scheduled, weather permitting.

"I was kind of surprised it was closed as long as it was, but they did what they had to do," said Bowman, who on Monday had found a spot in the shade overlooking the lake. "I'm sure it's an isolated event and I'm not concerned."

John Tannahill, chief of the district's Ranger Police, said the decision was made to reopen Saturday because the threat had passed and sweeps of the preserve by dogs from the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department Bomb Unit yielded no explosives.

"We didn't find any item, the time of the threat had passed and I thought it was safe to open," Tannahill said. "We feel very confident that due to the timing and the unique threat, it's 100 percent safe to come to the preserves."

Authorities have not said what the target was except that it was not a district function or activity. Four letters outlining a threat were sent, including one to the forest preserve district, which prompted the closure.

The U.S. Postal Investigation Service is leading the investigation. Tannahill said that is in a holding pattern as evidence is analyzed. People of interest have been questioned but no arrests have been made, according to authorities.

"Because of the personal nature of it, we believe it was a single person," he said.

Meanwhile, the district continues to tally the economic impact.

This past Saturday, 2,028 people in vehicles entered at the main gate and generated $4,800 in revenue for parking, the beach and marina, according to Jim Ballowe, the district's superintendent of facilities. On Sunday, the numbers were 2,754 people and about $8,000 in revenue. That does not include foot, bike, or equestrian traffic.

The averages for weekend days are 3,500 visitors and $7,500 to $8,000 in revenue, Ballowe said, and the weekdays are about half as much. That does not include catering at the pavilion and visitors center.

It wasn't crowded Monday but activities continued as planned.

Paula McCantz, a director with A Child's Place day care center in Volo, was overseeing 70 kids at the beach.

"We had a couple of parents that were concerned but we just assured them if it wasn't a safe environment for us to be in, it wouldn't be open."

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