'Nature is healing': Morton Arboretum to launch ticket sales next week for public reopening

  • Globemaster onion flowers are in bloom as visitors walk a path at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle Friday.

      Globemaster onion flowers are in bloom as visitors walk a path at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle Friday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Member passes to visit the Morton Arboretum in Lisle are sold out through the weekend. A new admissions process requires members to reserve a time slot to visit the grounds.

      Member passes to visit the Morton Arboretum in Lisle are sold out through the weekend. A new admissions process requires members to reserve a time slot to visit the grounds. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Jack Berger, 2, checks out one of the trolls at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle Friday while his grandmother, Wendy McPherrin of Wheaton, takes a picture.

      Jack Berger, 2, checks out one of the trolls at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle Friday while his grandmother, Wendy McPherrin of Wheaton, takes a picture. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • The Morton Arboretum encourages visitors to wear masks when they are closer than 6 feet to unrelated guests.

      The Morton Arboretum encourages visitors to wear masks when they are closer than 6 feet to unrelated guests. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/5/2020 6:04 PM

The little boy stopped in his tracks and locked eyes with the troll hiding in the trees.

Jack Berger, 2, ventured with his grandmother Friday to see this guardian of the forest at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He loves the trolls. He knows them all by name," Wendy McPherrin said.

But her grandson couldn't come face to face with the trolls, now surrounded by fences and red flags, as the museum along Route 53 slowly emerges from its coronavirus closure.

For two months, the arboretum mostly belonged to wildlife and the wooden creatures created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo.

The 1,700-acre campus reopened this week for the first time since the beginning of April, but only to members who must reserve a time slot.

"Nature is healing, and so we're grateful to be able to give people access to trees and nature at a time that is stressful and difficult for so many," said Alicia LaVire, an arboretum vice president.

Member passes remain in high demand, selling out through this weekend. The new ticketing process helps the arboretum moderate attendance and operate at a fraction of its usual capacity.

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The arboretum plans to reopen to the general public June 15. Sales for nonmember, timed-entry passes will launch at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Expect a rush, considering demand on the first day of member sales initially overwhelmed the new online ticketing system.

"Some members had to wait until that was fully restored, so we've amped up the capacity ... to prepare for that," LaVire said.

Cantigny Park in Wheaton also reopened Monday to members. It will likely reopen to the public in late June.

On a busy summer day, the arboretum would normally welcome more than 10,000 people. Now, it's allowing roughly 3,000 a day.

Signs along the roadway alert drivers to the admission procedures before they pull up to a gatehouse. Attendants instruct anyone without a ticket to a pullover lane that exits to Route 53 without going onto the grounds, LaVire said.

Visitors are adhering to protocols, LaVire said. Trails along Meadow Lake and Lake Marmo, for instance, are one-way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Buildings, the children's and maze gardens and indoor bathrooms remain closed. In July and August, the arboretum will hold small-scale summer science camps in accordance with state guidelines.

"There may also be some much smaller-scale events or class offerings, but all of our larger events have been canceled," LaVire said.

Like many nonprofit organizations, the arboretum has felt COVID-19-related financial losses, amounting to at least $40,000 a day during the closure, LaVire said. "We've really been relying on our donors and members for support," she said.

• Daily Herald photographer Rick West contributed to this report.

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