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Quarantined Residents Are Flocking To Reopened State Parks, Often For The First Time

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Wikipedia Commons
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Silver Springs State Park

Illinois residents have been flocking to state parks as the summer months approach. As of now, 60 state parks have partially reopened since May 1.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Colleen Callahan says even though more people are visiting the parks -- sometimes for the first time ever -- the state has been a “model for reopening.”

She says people are appreciating the physical and mental benefits the parks can offer, especially when options are limited under the stay-at-home order. Visitors have been mostly respectful, and they haven’t had many issues with groups or garbage.

“As we return and as the Department of Natural Resources is now is beginning to say, ‘Welcome back and welcome home,’ I do sense that people have a greater appreciation,” said Callahan.

The IDNR is still encouraging social distancing and keeping a face covering with you in case you’re on a path where you can’t be six feet apart. And if you feel sick -- stay home.

“It's unnatural for us to say in the same sentence, ‘Enjoy the great outdoors, go visit a park’ and then say, ‘This is about life and death,’ all at the same time. And right now, it is,” she said.

Some offerings like beaches, camping and turkey hunting are still suspended. Only two people are allowed per boat.

Callahan says the department is working with Governor J.B. Pritzker and Department of Public Health to set safety guidelines for reopenings. The IDNR also wants an even distribution of open parks throughout the state.

As of now, it’s uncertain when or where more state parks could open if parts of the state reach the next phase of the governor’s reopening plan.