Forest preserve parking lots closed in DuPage to discourage crowds

  • The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is limiting parking at popular preserves to stop large crowds from gathering during the state's stay-at-home order. Signs at the north entrance to Herrick Lake Forest Preserve near Wheaton prohibit access to non-DuPage residents.

      The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is limiting parking at popular preserves to stop large crowds from gathering during the state's stay-at-home order. Signs at the north entrance to Herrick Lake Forest Preserve near Wheaton prohibit access to non-DuPage residents. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • As part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's effort to stop large crowds from gathering at several of its preserves, one of the parking lots at Herrick Lake Forest Preserve near Wheaton has been closed. The entrance to the closed parking lot is on the east side of Herrick Road.

      As part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's effort to stop large crowds from gathering at several of its preserves, one of the parking lots at Herrick Lake Forest Preserve near Wheaton has been closed. The entrance to the closed parking lot is on the east side of Herrick Road. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/22/2020 6:34 AM

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County now is trying to limit parking at six preserves to discourage large crowds during the state's stay-at-home order.

The move came Monday, when the district announced closure of some lots at Fullersburg Woods in Oak Brook, Herrick Lake near Wheaton, McDowell Grove near Naperville, Spring Creek Reservoir near Bloomingdale, Waterfall Glen near Darien and Wood Dale Grove near Wood Dale.

 

"We're doing everything we can to make sure that our preserves don't get too busy," spokesman Tony Martinez said Tuesday. "The other alternative is shutting down all the forest preserves, and we don't want to do that."

Suburban forest preserve districts responded differently after Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued the stay-home-order on March 20 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The order runs though April 30.

Will County closed parking lots at all its preserves. Cook County has closed lots at some sites, including Busse Forest Elk Pasture near Elk Grove Village. Forest preserves in Kane and Lake counties have remained open.

Ty Kovach, executive director of the Lake County Forest Preserves, said the district has asked visitors to help keep preserves open by social distancing.

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"Our observation is that people are really going out of their way up here in Lake County to practice good social distancing in the parking lot and once they get out into the preserve," Kovach said.

Martinez says DuPage officials want to keep preserves open because of the health benefits related to being outside. Like other districts, DuPage called on visitors to adhere to social distancing and public health guidelines.

But the district closed Rocky Glen Waterfall at Waterfall Glen on April 3 to stop visitors from congregating and said it would monitor congestion in parking lots.

Despite encouraging people to visit less crowded preserves, popular locations remained busy. So officials prohibited non-county residents from parking at Waterfall Glen, Fullersburg Woods, Blackwell near Warrenville, Herrick Lake, and Hidden Lake near Downers Grove.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In addition to posting signs, forest preserve police patrolled the preserves to ensure compliance and even ran license plates and issued citations to violators.

Still, the district had to go further and close some lots.

When asked if closing preserves is a possibility, Martinez said it would be "the last resort."

"Hopefully, we've been through the roughest part of it, but who knows," he said. "The weather is getting nicer out there."

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