Chicago outdoors and COVID-19: Ongoing and new impacts (smelt netting, Heidecke opener, trout season)

Ongoing and new impacts from COVID-19 around Chicago outdoors include on the openers for smelting and for Heidecke Lake and the postponement at most sites for trout season.

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Heidecke Lake—pictured here on the next to last day it was open last fall is Edward ``Eddie Walleye’’ Grych trekking out at sunset—will not open as scheduled on April 1. Credit: Dale Bowman

Heidecke Lake—pictured here on the next to last day it was open last fall is Edward ``Eddie Walleye’’ Grych trekking out at sunset—will not open as scheduled on April 1.

Dale Bowman

“I want people to know that the forest preserves remain open as an option across the county for fresh air, exercise and access to nature,” Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle said Sunday in a COVID-19 update.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites and the Chicago lakefront are closed, but nearly all forest preserves around the Chicago area and most Chicago parks/lagoons are open.

Trickier are those lakes scheduled to open Saturday for inland trout season. Trout waters around Chicago, which were stocked, are closed to fishing until trout season opens at some distant point.

That said, most buildings, including nature centers, are closed. In open areas, people need to not congregate and to respect social distancing, including notifying nearby people when biking or hiking.

By now we all know the basics.

In case people don’t understand the gravity, Preckwinkle warned, “If and when we see that a specific location is no longer tenable, due to the behavior of visitors, we will add it to the list of sites that we have shut down.

“Here in Cook County, the preserves have always offered access to the natural world close to home. We know this is a great benefit for the physical and mental health of all of our residents. In these difficult times, that resource is more important than ever.”

She got that right.

Just in case, let me make this plain for those jackasses who act like they don’t know. Forest preserves should remain open if people follow the social distancing/not congregating/hand-washing/stay-home-if-sick guidelines.

HEIDECKE: The former cooling lake near Morris, scheduled to open today, “will remain temporarily closed to the public until further notice,” according to the IDNR.

Smelt netting on the Chicago lakefront will not open as scheduled on April 1; last year opening night was a rare one that produced some smelt, such as these near the Shedd Aquarium. Credit: Dale Bowman

Smelt netting on the Chicago lakefront will not open as scheduled on April 1; last year opening night was a rare one that produced some smelt, such as these near the Shedd Aquarium.

Dale Bowman

SMELT: Smelt netting will not begin, as traditional, tonight. As a Chicago Park District email explained, ``The Lakefront will remain closed throughout the Governor’s order to all public activities, including smelt netting, until the Governor and the Chicago Department of Health deem it safe to reopen.’’

BIG SPACES: The 30 miles of trails at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie near Wilmington remain open 4 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Restroom facilities are temporarily unavailable. . . . Indiana’s Kankakee Sands has trails and hiking open, but the main building is closed. Trevor Edmondson tweeted, “The snipes are really active flying over the prairie now.”

TURKEYS IN ILLINOIS: Turkey hunting is a go on private property and Illinois Recreational Access Program sites, but off limits at closed IDNR sites as long as the closure lasts. The first youth statewide hunt was last weekend, the second is this weekend. The regular south zone season opens Monday.

IDNR director Colleen Callahan addressed a key question: “Our current administrative rules under the state’s wildlife code prohibit the issuance of refunds or transfer of permits. We understand the problems these laws create for our sportsmen and women and are reviewing all possible solutions.’”

A file photo of wild turkeys.

A file photo of wild turkeys.

Dale Bowman

WHEN? As to when the IDNR sites might reopen, spokesperson Rachel Torbert emailed, “IDNR is working closely with the Governor’s Office and the Illinois Department of Public Health to monitor the situation and assess when we can safely reopen our facilities.”

WILD THINGS: Sunday’s progression map on the Facebook Group, Illinois Morel Mushrooms, had finds as far north as Edgar County. IDNR sites remain off limits for foraging during the closure.

STRAY CAST: While I’m glad that the outdoors is the one live thing in the toy section of the Sun-Times, I’ve learned to enjoy the virtual NASCAR races.

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