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Chicago Lakefront, Playgrounds, Indoor Swimming Pools To Begin Reopening

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Nearly a year after the city's lakefront, playgrounds, and indoor swimming pools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chicago Park District plans to begin reopening them soon.

"We are thrilled that lakefront, playgrounds and indoor aquatics programs can safely reopen," Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly said in a statement. "The District is busy preparing these facilities to open as soon as possible. Although these restrictions are being lifted, we must continue to be diligent with the safety protocols that have been instrumental in our progress."

The Chicago Park District announced Tuesday morning that it would begin reopening public access points to the Lakefront as crews remove snow and clean up from the recent winter storms. Parking restrictions on the lakefront also will be lifted, and parking fees will be required and enforced.

Masks will be required on the lakefront, and large gatherings will be prohibited. Social distancing will be required at all times.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it's an appropriate time to begin reopening the lakefront, because Chicago recently achieved the lowest positivity rate it has seen at any point during the pandemic.

"So my expectation and hope is that people will continue to do the good hard work that is necessary to protect themselves, their family members, and their neighbors, and understand that the lake is a very important and precious resource that we have," she said.

The mayor said the lakefront was closed last march out of concern of large crowds gathering and ignoring basic protections against COVID-19, such as wearing masks and keeping a safe distance from others.

"What we've seen since that time is people understanding the moment that we are in, and so it's certainly, I think, appropriate under the circumstances, particularly where we are in the arc of our virus," she said.

In the coming weeks, the Park District also will unlock gates and prepare all 500 playgrounds and nature play spaces in the city to reopen. Visitors are urged to wear masks, observe social distancing, and frequently wash their hands.

Park District officials said playgrounds and nature play spaces will not be regularly sanitized, but can be safely used by following guidance that will be posted on signs at each location.

Indoor pools at Park District facilities also will reopen and offer limited aquatics programming during the district's Spring session (April 5th through June 13th). Registration for spring programs begins March 8.

"The District urges residents to enjoy the parks responsibly by following safety guidance including social distancing, wearing a mask and washing or sanitizing your hands frequently," a spokesman for the mayor's office said in an email.

For park specific COVID-19 updates visit the Chicago Park District website.

The city's lakefront parks and beaches have been closed since March, as have the Park District's playgrounds and indoor swimming pools.

The Lakefront Trail reopened in June, with a requirement that visitors keep moving, and the city only opened half of the 50 access points to the lakefront at that time.

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