COVID-19 Chicago: Lakefront reopens, along with playgrounds, indoor swimming as COVID metrics improve

CDC guidelines must be followed, Mayor Lightfoot says

Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Chicago's lakefront to re-open after nearly a year
Nearly one year after it was closed because of the pandemic, Chicago's lakefront is open again!

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago will soon reopen access to its lakefront, playgrounds and indoor aquatic programs, as COVID-19 metrics continue to improve across the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in an announcement early Tuesday.

The gates blocking Montrose Harbor were actually reopened last Friday so city trucks could dump snow back there, but the gates remained open to the general public.

Chicago Park District crews will now begin opening public access points to parkland east of Lake Shore Drive. Restrictions on parking will also be lifted.

WATCH: Chicago lakefront seen from above as it reopens amid easing COVID restrictions

Chicago's lakefront is reopening amid easing COVID restrictions.

The decision by the mayor to ease restrictions came a day after the city's health department reported a decline in Chicago's test positivity rate, which dipped to 3.4%. According to local public health officials, that's the lowest the city has seen since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman, a vocal proponent of a lakefront reopening, said he's thrilled.

"My office would get bombarded with phone calls from constituents who were saying, 'We're going nuts! We would like to have this open, please, please, please!' I understand. We're tired of this. I'm tired of this," he said.

Chicago's lakefront is reopening after being closed for almost a year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With spring just around the corner, many are getting a little squirrelly.

"I remember doing the track before and it was closed, and we couldn't park," runner Guillermo Baca said. "So it's nice to have parking as well and also it speaks to the progress we are making as a city in terms of COVID."

"It's very exciting for sure, but it's also obviously, like, a little concerning," said Jackie Keller, a runner. "People still have to be safe."

After snow removal and cleanup from recent storms, the Chicago Park District will be preparing more than 500 outdoor playgrounds and nature play spaces to reopen.

Indoor park district swimming pools will also reopen for limited programming.

"This is great," bicyclist Lily Borich said. "We're back in business, that's what it feels like."

RELATED: Chicago lakefront could be shut down again after 'reckless' behavior at Montrose Beach, Lightfoot warns

The lakefront east of Lake Shore Drive has been officially closed since March 26, 2020, because of pandemic restrictions. The lakefront trail reopened in June 2020 for those who kept moving.

"When we started to make changes to the lakefront, we were in a very different place," Lightfoot said. "I think what we've seen from that time is people understanding the moment that we're in, so it's appropriate."

The city is still asking people to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including social distancing and mask wearing.

The new announcement is being welcomed by many itching to get back to normal.

"I think it's OK because everyone is being responsible," runner Suraj Suresh said. "I have not seen anyone without the mask. People are socially distancing."

The Chicago Park District superintendent said they will work to reopen as soon as possible.

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