CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Forest Preserves of Cook County will begin selling 2017 picnic permits online and in-person Tuesday.
Nearly 1,000 permits are issued on the first day they are available for purchase. Visitors are encouraged to avoid the lines by reserving their favorite picnic grove online. Cash, check, Visa and MasterCard are accepted in person.
The online permitting system allows residents to create an account in order to purchase a variety of permits, including family and corporate picnics, walk-a-thons and special use permits. Customers that created profiles in past years are advised to use the same log-in information.
This year, visitors can come to the Dan Ryan Visitor Center, 8700 S. Western in Chicago, to purchase their 2017 permits. Doors open at 7 a.m. and sales will begin at 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Dan Ryan Visitor Center will also be open for permit sales each Friday in January from well as from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Permits are also available at general headquarters at 536 N. Harlem Ave., River Forest.
A picnic permit must be obtained by groups of 25 or more.
In-person 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 the first choice is not available.
The various permit prices and a list locations are posted the Cook County Forest Preserves website.
Camping reservations also open on Tuesday. Bookings for the Forest Preserves' five campgrounds can be made for April 1 through Dec. 31.
Camping reservations can be made online at fpdcc.com/camping/camping-reservations; by phone at (855) YES-CAMP (937-2267). Reservations can also be made by calling Camp Sullivan, Camp Bullfrog Lake or Camp Reinberg directly during office hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or on weekends when there are campers. For campground contact information, visit fpdcc.com/camping.
The Forest Preserves of Cook County sold nearly 8,000 permits in 2016. More than 10 percent of permits sold in 2016 were purchased on opening day.
The most popular groves for picnics in 2016 were:
Dan Ryan Woods - Chicago
Schiller Woods - Chicago/Schiller Park
Busse Woods - Elk Grove Village/Rolling Meadows/Schaumburg
In 2015, the forest preserve brought back public camping for the first time in 50 years with the opening of five campgrounds.
Since their opening, nearly 40,000 campers have spent the night in the forest preserves. Camping is available in the winter with heated cabins and private bathrooms.