Chicago reopening: Navy Pier preps for visitors later this week after parks, libraries back open Monday

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The patio door's at Navy Pier are about to slide open for the first time in months in just a couple days.

"We are extremely excited to be able to open," said Leticia Tischina, the general manager at Harry Caray's.

The staff at Harry Caray's was back to work after pandemic procedure training, carefully spacing out tables and marking socially distant sidewalk wait spaces.

"We're a little nervous just because there's a lot of 'what if's?' Not sure if a lot of people are going to come at the beginning or if we're going to have everybody come," she said.

The patio can only seat about half its normal capacity.

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Grant Park is among the public areas in Chicago that will be open Monday as the city continues to relax some COVID-19 restrictions.



And roughly the same goes for the rest of Navy Pier's sprawling outdoor space.
there will be staff to make sure of it.

"We have social distancing ambassadors, and that's a group of Navy Pier employees who are going to be circulating the pier making sure people are appropriately physical distancing," said Navy Pier spokesman, Payal Patel.

There is also a plan in place for if crowds start to form.

"At any point, this heat map indicator alerts us and tells us 'there's a gathering at this part of the pier,' our security team can go over there, ambassadors can go over there and make sure people are dispersing," Patel explained.

The famed Ferris Wheel and the Children's Museum will remain closed for the time being.

It's all part of a slow emergence.

More city employees returned to work Monday in Chicago, many public libraries re-opened, and so did all public parks west of lakeshore drive.

All parks west of the lakefront which include Grant Park, Lincoln Park, Burnham Park, Harold Washington Park, Jackson Park, the Jackson Park Golf Course and the Diversey Driving Range also reopened on Monday.

Runners in Grant Park were thrilled that the city is taking steps forward as the weather starts to heat up into summer.

"I'm happy with it," said Marcelo Greco. "I'm definitely happy with it. I think the parks are for the people and I'm glad they're opening. I think the restrictions were necessary."

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"It's fantastic that they're open so we can go out and run and, as you know, even if they are closed, as runners we really don't congregate, we don't stop, we just move, we are always on the run, so I think it's a good idea that they're open," said runner Azade Yedidag.

Though in reality, the closure was never enforced in most of them as people sought alternatives to the lakefront path.

The main difference people noted today was a reopening of restroom facilities and district buildings

"I understand because of the social distancing and COVID it was closed, but re-opening is good, so happy about that," said Jessica Akioyamen.

While the lakefront path ostensibly remains closed, that no longer seems to be enforced, as ABC-7 observed a steady stream of cyclists and runners using it from end to end.

An official reopening plan expected to be announced soon by the mayor.

Maggie Daley Park is scheduled to reopen on June 15 and Millennium Park will also open in mid-june.

READ: Mayor Lightfoot's full plan for reopening Chicago in early June

The Chicago Park District will offer a modified version of its summer day camp from July 6 to August 14 at 148 parks across the city. There is also a two-week extended camp running from August 17-28.

Campers will engage in STEM activities, reading journal writing as well as modified sports and outdoor activities that follow social distancing guidelines, the Park District said. More information is available at chicagoparkdistrict.com.

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"I think if you limit the access that people are going to do more and ridiculous things," said runner Joyce Rii.

Residents are still required to wear masks, practice social distancing and stay home if they feel sick.

The reopening of some city services announcement comes about two-and-a-half months after the state shut down due to the coronavirus, which has killed more than 5,900 people in Illinois. Earlier this month, restrictions were eased to allow restaurants to reopen with outdoor dining as well as hair and nail salons.

It's been three months since many golfers were last able to practice their swing at the Diversey range. Monday morning, they were back.

"It's a great feeling. It's a beautiful day and this is a great place to go hit some balls and take out some frustration and it's great to be back," said golfer Curt Wiley.

Aaron Mayerle was also back working on his swing.

"I took COVID pretty seriously and everything like that," Mayerlie said. "I'm glad they took precautions to close and stay safe and when it comes down to loving golf, I mean, I'm so happy it's back."

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Grant Park is among the public areas in Chicago that will be open Monday as the city continues to relax some COVID-19 restrictions.



"The response is people very excited for us to be open, phones ringing off the hook because they're kind of making sure what time we're open at 7 so we're open from 7 to 11 everyday of the week," said Diversey Driving Range manager Tim Maginley.

The sentiment was echoed around Chicago as the city continued its phased reopening, which included park district facilities, the city payment center at 400 West Superior and about half of the city's public libraries.

"It was great," said Susan Robinson, a CPS teacher. "It was a little vacant because of the capacity restrictions. But it was nice to have the space and the different atmosphere and not being cooped up at home and trying to conduct classes."

The the Edgewater branch has a strict capacity limit of 30 people. Plexiglass separates library employees from those seeking to check out books, and certain areas are still blocked off, but for those that rely on these spaces for work and leisure, it's a step in the right direction.

"I love it, and I miss it because I always come to pick up books about writing and traveling. And I have a ton of books to return so, thank god they renewed," said Denise O'Neal.
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