Some state parks open just in time for weekend

It’s official. You can now hike and fish at two state parks in Ogle County, as long as you continue to practice social distancing.

Lowden State Park, north of Oregon, and White Pines State Park, between Oregon and Polo, reopened to the general public on May 1.

That was just in time for Tricia Clark, of Sterling, her two-year-old son, Declan, and Summer Trenholm of Dixon.

“We haven’t had anything to do about two months,” said Tricia as the trio walked across the bridge over Pine Creek on Friday. “We are just going to walk around today and look at the water.”

Declan stopped long enough to find a rock and toss it into the creek.

Further down the creek, Mary McConnaghay and Kyle Akins of Sycamore, were fly fishing.

“We actually caught a few,” said Akins. “A trout and some smallmouth bass.”

“It’s such a nice day,” added McConnaghay.

Ten miles to the east, John Tuttle of Oregon and his rescue dog Gracie were hiking on a trail at Lowden Miller State Park.

“Isn’t it wonderful that the park is reopened?,” said Tuttle. “Gracie is enjoying it.”

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced last week that Lowden would reopen May 1. White Pines and a handful of other area parks, joined that list via the IDNR website on Friday.

“Parks will be open from sun-up to sundown. Guests will be allowed to engage in activities such as wildlife observation, hiking, biking, equestrian use and fishing (both from the bank and boats with a limit of two persons per boat regardless of the relationship of the people in the boat) and mushroom hunting,” the IDNR website said.

“All visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, shelter reservations, interpretive educational programs, beaches, special events and concessions will remain closed; turkey hunting will remain suspended at state parks.”

Area parks now open in Northwestern Illinois are: Black Hawk State Historic Site, Franklin Creek State Natural Area, Hennepin Canal State Trail, Lowden State Park, Mississippi Palisades State Park, Morrison-Rockwood State Park, Prophetstown State Park, Rock Cut State Park, Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area, and White Pines Forest State Park.

Tom Buskohl, of Polo, didn’t waste any time Friday morning in grabbing his fishing pole and heading to Morrison-Rockwood State Park.

“It was really busy early,” Buskohl said. “I love Rockwood, I have always taken my sons and grandsons here. I always attend the fishing derby sponsored by Whiteside County Sheriff Department.”

Kyle and Hayden Vinnedge, of Forreston, also tried their luck at Rockwood.

“I office at home and we are homeschooling Hayden (9) and a 7-year-old daughter, so
I’m glad the weather is good enough to get out. It is a huge change from homeschooling,” Kyle said.

IDNR’s website said visitors must follow these guidelines:

• Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet of distance between yourself and others

• Stay home if you are sick or feeling any symptoms, such as fever, coughing, troubled breathing, and/or other flu-like symptoms

• Visit alone or with members of your household

• Stay local and visit parks that are closest to where you live

• If you arrive at a park and crowds are forming, please move to another area or return another time/day to visit

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper arm/elbow. 

At the direction of the Illinois Department of Public Health, restrooms, shower buildings (for restroom and handwashing use only) and flush toilet buildings with hand washing facilities are currently open. 

“This is a trying time for all of us. We appreciate your understanding as we navigate uncharted territory. Please feel free to email us at DNR.Parksadmin@Illinois.gov with additional questions,” the website said.

The parks were closed by Pritzker in March as part of an executive order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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