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With Trails Still Open, Parks And Forest Preserves Go The Extra Mile To Ensure Social Distancing

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Peter Medlin
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Herrick Lake, part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

The opening of trout fishing season is a very popular time at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

But because “popular” means big crowds, the district was forced to close freshly-stocked lakes to avoid an influx of visitors.

Park districts and forest preserves across the country are cutting back services and closing facilities during the pandemic.

People are searching for ways to move around and get fresh air, and that can mean visiting a local forest or park.

“We know people want to get outside. But you know, there's safe ways to do that to make sure it's safe not only for them but for everyone else,” said Director of Community Relations Tony Martinez.

Other managers of recreational sites, like the Rockford Park District, have gone the extra mile to keep people from gathering.

It’s closed off everything from playgrounds to tennis courts. Rims are removed from basketball hoops.

Even summer events are up in the air at this point.

Laura Gibbs-Green is the park district’s communications manager. She says it’s trying to find creative ways to help people stay active.

You can still hike, walk or run on trails. She says the district still has a lot to offer and it’s encouraging residents to try something new.

“You can still just look at nature, see nature, see all the flowers that are blooming,” she said. “Do that right now and take that time to do it because we may not get this opportunity all the time to be able to take a step back and really walk and maybe try running again.”

So far, trails in northern Illinois are not closed. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County alone has over 150 miles worth of trails to explore.

And the Rockford Park District has been making social media videos to lead families through home activities like hopscotch and indoor plastic bottle bowling.