The Forest Way
Forest Preserves of Cook County Newsletter

July 2020

Photo of the Month: Got it, Mommy; Sandhill Crane and Colts. Photo by Leonardo Estrada 
Sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis) mate for life and stay with their offspring from birth in the late spring through fall migration and overwintering. Juveniles set out on their own the following spring.
In this Issue:
- Make the Most of Summer Safely
- Restore Illinois Plan: Phase Four
- Outdoor Summer Safety Tips
- Events
- Latest News

Make the Most of Summer Safely

From President Toni Preckwinkle

This summer is unlike any we’ve experienced before. The COIVD-19 pandemic has changed how we interact in public and has forced many people to hit pause on travel, often interfering with traditional summer vacation plans.
But there are still plenty of ways to make the most of summer while keeping you and your family safe. Below are some ideas for fun, exciting experiences throughout the season in the Forest Preserves of Cook County, even as we have changed some of our operations to continue to limit the possible spread of COVID-19.

  • Spend a night under the stars. Pitch a tent or book a cabin and build a campfire to roast some marshmallows while fully immersing yourself in Cook County’s natural wonders. Camp Reinberg, Camp Sullivan, Camp Shabbona Woods and Camp Bullfrog Lake are now open Wednesday evenings through Sunday mornings for tents and cabins, and every day for RVs.
  • Explore a new ecosystem. Many visitors have their favorite forest preserve. This year consider exploring someplace new. There are hundreds of preserves throughout Cook County, with ecosystems ranging from sedge marshes to bur oak savannas. Each ecosystem is host to hundreds of different species of plant and animal life.
  • Try a new activity. Our programming department has shifted to a whole new slate of online and limited in-person events and programs. Or try self-guided activities such as disc golf and fishing to experience the great outdoors.
  • Challenge yourself to exercise more. If you enjoy walking, hiking or biking, our nearly 350 miles of trails can be a route as you challenge yourself to hit new mileage milestones. Can you walk 50 miles of new trails this summer? Or perhaps this will be the year you bike a century!
  • Explore the waterways by canoe or kayak. Watching wilderness from the water can offer an entirely new perspective. If you don’t have your own boat, limited rentals are available at two boating centers in the Forest Preserves: Busse Lake Boating Center and Tampier Lake Boating Center.

No matter how you to choose to make the most of the summer, be sure to do so safely. Wear a face mask or covering. Practice physical distancing from anyone who does not live in your household. Be sure to bring hand sanitizer and water. Finally, for more information visit our COVID-19 web page for a full list of precautions and the latest information on closures and cancellations.

Kids sitting inside a tent

Restore Illinois Plan: Phase Four and the Forest Preserves

We’ve updated our operations and visitor guidelines based on Illinois’ move into Phase Three of the Restore Illinois plan:

  • Weekend parking closures have ended. Most, but not all, parking lots that have been closed due to COVID-19 are now open. Always check if a parking lot at a location is open on our web map ( or by visiting the location's page on our website ( before visiting. Both will indicate if there is a closure.
  • On July 9, the Swallow Cliff Stairs, along with parking lots at Swallow Cliff-North, Swallow Cliff-South and Teason’s Woods, reopen with modified rules for use.
  • Nature center grounds, trails and bathrooms are now seven days per week, from 8 am to 4 pm. Nature center exhibit buildings remain closed. Parking is limited to 50% capacity to help limit crowding.
  • A limited number of bathrooms are now open. Like with parking, check if a location has an open bathroom on our web map or the location page on the website. Please plan and time your visit accordingly.
  • Grills and coolers are once again allowed in the preserves.
  • Camp Reinberg, Camp Sullivan, Camp Shabbona Woods and Camp Bullfrog Lake are now open from Wednesday evening to Sunday morning for tents and cabins, and every day for RVs. Group camping is closed until further notice, but bunkhouses are available at 50% capacity for family groups at Camp Sullivan. For more information and reservations, call 855-YES-CAMP (855-937-2267). Camp Dan Beard remains closed.
  • The Forest Preserves is accepting existing permits for picnics and other events with 50 or fewer people. New event permits and indoor room rentals are available starting August 1, and can be booked now. The Forest Preserves General Headquarters permits counter is now open by appointment only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, we strongly encourage you to call 800-870-3666 or email for their permit needs.

Please note that some sites remain closed due to the impact of COVID-19. Visit our COVID-19 Page for a comprehensive list of Forest Preserves closures, cancellations and visitor guidelines.

COVID-19 Information
Boy running on trail

Outdoor Summer Safety Tips

When visiting the Forest Preserves of Cook County this sunny summer, no matter the activity—from hiking and running to biking, from camping to golf—keep some simple safety tips in mind while spending time outdoors.

View the Tips


Join our programming teams and naturalists for fun, educational virtual offerings via Zoom and Facebook Live in July, including presentations on bats, turtles, honey bees and more. There are also limited in-person events available, which require attendees to register in advance. Check out our online events calendar for a full schedule.

Check Out the Schedule

Latest News 

View, Purchase Art Inspired by Nature
Project Onward, in partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County and Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, is offering a new virtual art exhibition titled Fresh Air. Artists from Project Onward, inspired by their own experiences with nature, highlight the human yearning for connection to the outside, after months of shelter-in-place in Illinois and around the country.
View the Exhibit
Southeast Cook County Plan Recognized with Green River Award
Friends of the Chicago River’s Green River Award honors the Forest Preserves’ Southeast Cook County Land Acquisition Plan, which represents a unique and innovative approach to identifying and protecting valuable open space and natural areas in the watershed.
Learn More
New Forest Preserve Experience Funding from Forest Preserve Foundation
A $100,000 grant from the Forest Preserve Foundation will help underwrite increased wages for Forest Preserve Experience crew members this summer. FPE employs high-school aged residents served by the Housing Authority of Cook County at conservation and restoration projects in the preserves. The program is coordinated by the Forest Preserves and the Friends of the Forest Preserves, with generous support from the Housing Authority of Cook County and the Forest Preserve Foundation. The increased 2020 funding comes via a new grant recently secured from the Central Indiana Community Foundation, which previously has supported Forest Preserve Foundation-backed youth conservation programs.
Learn More
Fill Out the 2020 Census
It’s more important than ever to fill out the census. Your participation helps determine funding for your local school, library, health clinics, roads and more. Help your community receive the money it needs for the next 10 years.
Complete the Census
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