Lake County Forest Preserve District's dog parks to reopen starting June 8

  • The Lake County Forest Preserve District's dog parks, including this one near Wauconda, have been closed since March because of the COVID-19 crisis. Forest preserve officials said Monday they will gradually reopen the parks beginning next week.

      The Lake County Forest Preserve District's dog parks, including this one near Wauconda, have been closed since March because of the COVID-19 crisis. Forest preserve officials said Monday they will gradually reopen the parks beginning next week. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/1/2020 6:39 PM

The Lake County Forest Preserve District's dog exercise areas will begin reopening to the public next week, nearly three months after they were shut down because of the COVID-19 crisis.

The district has five fenced parks where dogs can frolic off leash. Officials have decided to open two of the parks on June 8 and the rest in the days to follow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The dog parks at the Lakewood Forest Preserve near Wauconda and at the Waukegan Savanna near Waukegan will be the first to reopen. The other parks -- at the Independence Grove Forest Preserve near Libertyville, the Duck Farm Forest Preserve near Lake Villa and the Prairie Wolf Forest Preserve near Highland Park -- will reopen every two days or so after that, officials said.

Officials didn't reveal the order in which the other parks will open.

The forest board's operations committee recommended reopening the dog exercise areas following an hourlong discussion Monday that was held remotely because of the pandemic. A board vote isn't needed.

Lakewood's dog park was chosen as one of the first to open because, at 66 acres, it's the largest of the five sites, said Ty Kovach, the district's executive director. The Waukegan site was chosen as the other to open early because it's on the other side of the county.

Some new rules and policies will be enacted to ensure the public's health. For example, to better ensure social distancing, only people with annual passes will be allowed to use the parks. Previously, daily permits could be purchased online or by phone.

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Additionally, signs will tell users to wear masks and carry hand sanitizer. And to reduce use of common touch points, stations that normally hold bags for dog waste won't be stocked.

Some committee members voiced concern that a gradual reopening of the parks would lead to crowds and unsafe conditions at the initial sites.

"I have a feeling we're going to have people from all over the county going to those parks," Lake Zurich Republican Craig Taylor said.

Kovach said the district will close down the dog parks again if people aren't properly following social distancing guidelines.

Mike Tully, the district's chief operations officer, said district rangers will man the parks to monitor activity and ensure people are acting safely.

Three dog owners spoke to the committee about the reopening plan during the meeting. All favored reopening the parks.

Wauconda resident Jenny Mueller said she'll happily bring a mask and her own waste bags to the park. She also supports limiting access to people who have annual park passes, which cost up to $50 per dog for Lake County residents or $150 per dog for people who live elsewhere.

In contrast, Kildeer resident Marc Linhardt criticized the mask rule and the elimination of waste-bag stations.

More information will be publicized on the district's website, on social media and in emails to permit holders.

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