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An earlier opening day: 2019 Cook County forest preserves permits go on sale Nov. 15

Thursday, November 08, 2018
Chicago Tribune
by Steve Schering

An earlier opening day: 2019 Cook County forest preserves permits go on sale Nov. 15

Picnic and special-event permits for Forest Preserves of Cook County properties will go on sale nearly seven weeks earlier this year, officials announced.

Rather than its traditional “opening day” of offering permit sales in early January, officials announced permits for the 2019 season will go on sale Nov. 15.

Online and in-person permit sales will begin at 8 a.m. Nov. 15. In-person sales will take place between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the forest preserve headquarters, 536 N. Harlem Ave., River Forest, or at the Dan Ryan Visitor Center, 8700 S. Western Ave., Chicago.

Online sales will also open at 8 a.m. Nov. 15 at, and sales will remain available 24 hours a day.

“For years, we have opened up reservations for the next year in person and online on the first working day after New Year’s, usually Jan. 2,” said Arnold Randall, general superintendent for the forest preserves. “Every year, people line up outside, sometimes when the temperature is below zero, to get their favorite groves for their preferred date. We recognize that some residents may still be busy or out of town for the holidays come Jan. 2. An earlier opening day helps alleviate some of these issues and also gives families more time to plan.”

Among the events typically held at forest preserve properties include weddings, family reunions, birthdays and other special events, officials said.

Those applying for permits in person must have a valid state identification card or driver’s license. Accepted payment methods include cash, check or credit card. Purchasers should begin completing their permit application immediately upon arrival to expedite wait time, and have two or three additional locations in mind in case their first choice is not available, officials said.

Picnic permits are required for groups of 25 or more. To reserve picnic groves and request event spaces online or in-person, patrons must first set up an account at

Permits for groups larger than 399 attendees may currently be requested. Customers may submit applications in person at the River Forest headquarters, via email at or via fax at 708-771-1071.

In 2018, more than 7,000 permits were sold for picnics and special events at Forest Preserves of Cook County properties. Top sites for picnics and special events include Dan Ryan Woods in Chicago, Busse Woods in northwest Cook County and Schiller Woods in Chicago/Schiller Park.

Twitter @steveschering

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