Reopening Illinois: North suburbs weigh risks of opening lakefront for Memorial Day weekend

WILMETTE, Ill. (WLS) -- Normally heading to the lakefront on Memorial Day weekend in the Chicago area is the payoff for enduring a long, tough winter. And this winter and spring have been made especially challenging with the stay-at-home order. Some north suburban municipalities are taking that into consideration as they weigh whether to open the lakefront for Memorial Day weekend.

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"As you open up a season and a facility after there has been a stay-at-home order, and people have a pent up demand of getting out and doing things recreationally, we just want to make sure we're doing it safely," said Steve Wilson, executive director of the Wilmette Park District.

Wilson said officials with suburbs along the lakefront have been in constant contact with each other, as well as the county and state, heading into this weekend to find ways to strike a balance between letting residents enjoy the lake while being safe.

"We debated quite a bit whether we should be open or not, and ultimately being in with all the staff and all the regulations is going to keep people safer than otherwise," he said.

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Wilmette's popular Gilson Beach and Rosewood Beach in Highland Park have similar regulations. Starting Saturday, the parking lot will be open only to residents with memberships to the beach to cut down on overcrowding.

Families can go on the sand, but must maintain social distancing.

There will also be no swimming allowed at Evanston beaches. So far, residents are taking what they can get.

"Hopefully they understand that to get back to normal they have to take some precautions," said Franz Calixte, Evanston resident.

"The community as a whole is pretty respectful of each other, and has pulled together in a big way," said Babs Waldman, Evanston resident.
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