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Picnic permits sell strong online

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Online registration for picnic permits at Cook County forest preserves grew even more popular this year, as all but some diehards abandoned the traditional early-morning line.

As of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, the first day permits became available, the forest preserve district had issued 1,264 permits through its online system, Deputy Supt. Vito Benigno said.

"In line, or in person, we had 140," Benigno said. "Last year, we did 200 in person. ... Three years ago, we had 1,000 people in line the first day, and that's the way it normally was."

Overall, permit reservations were up compared to last year, Benigno said. Last year, the district issued 900 permits over the first three days.

The higher numbers are due to the online system, Benigno said, which the district likes as much as the customers.

"Even though we gave them coffee and doughnuts and pizza, there was only so much we could do for them to make it easier," Benigno said.

The people who still show up in person on the first day either don't have access to computers or don't trust them, Benigno said.

"There's always some die-hards who feel, no matter what, they want to show up. They feel more secure that way," Benigno said. "It's mostly familiar faces."

Plenty of permits still remain, but Benigno said people with large, planned events who want to use the district's facilities should not hesitate. The most popular picnic spots ó Schiller Woods, Dan Ryan Woods and Busse Woods ó are usually booked solid for every weekend of the year by February.

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