CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County commissioners have lifted the long-standing bans on juggling, fortune telling and acrobatic feats in the forest preserves – even if you’re a “known” thief, burglar, pickpocket or robber.
But now you have to keep your pants on — and zipped — if you’re golfing or practicing on forest preserve courses and ranges. Or face a disorderly conduct ticket and fine of up to $500.
County commissioners, who also meet as the Forest Preserve Board, were in clean-up mode Wednesday, as they cleared old — and some possibly even illegal — ordinances off the books and better defined the “misconduct rules,” including just what indecent exposure is on the forest preserve links.
“We’ve brought rationality to what improper conduct is in the forest preserve,” said county Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-13th), who sponsored the dozens of changes to the forest preserve “misconduct” code. “We’re trying to clarify what the offenses are — so the police officer and the person charged is clear about the violation.”
He said they also shored up fuzzy language on a variety of fines. In the past, illegal parking could mean a $500 fine. Now it’s $35.
Also wiped from the books is a disorderly charge for “all persons who are known to be thieves, burglars, pickpockets, robbers or confidence men, either by their own confession or otherwise or by having been convicted of larceny, burglary, or other crimes against the laws of the State of Illinois, who are found lounging in or prowling or loitering around any house, barn, building or other structure within any forest preserve, and who are unable to give a reasonable excuse for being so found.”
Dennis White, chief attorney for the county’s forest preserve, says you can’t simply ticket a convicted thief for hanging out in the forest preserve.
“Someone convicted of a felony, for one, we wouldn’t know — and we wouldn’t want to engage in any profiling,” White said.
The goal of these ordinances is “to make sure we’re proactive in prohibiting certain activities that are harmful to the preserves” and those using them, White said.
But some of the ordinances were so old and arcane they were no longer needed.
Forest Preserve District spokesman Steve Mayberry talked to CBS 2 this past December about the list of forbidden “miscellaneous misdemeanors” that dated from generations ago.
The rules currently on the books forbid anyone from “juggling or any other unlawful games or plays” in the forest preserve. It is also forbidden to “indulge in any acrobatic feats.”
Fortune telling on forest preserve grounds is also prohibited, as is entering a forest preserve “in a dress not properly belonging to his or her sex.”
White, the forest preserve’s legal counsel, said he suspects some of those bans — juggling, acrobatics — may be tied to traveling carnivals and circuses setting up shop.
“I’ve never seen a citation for it,” White said, referring to recent history.
Suffredin, who like the other 16 forest commissioners serves in a dual role as commissioner for the Cook County Board, said the fortune-telling ban was lifted because “there was no definition of what fortune-telling is.”
“Now fortune tellers are now free to go in to the forest preserve and do whatever it is they do,” he said.
But you may get slapped with a $500 fine if you expose yourself on one of the forest-preserve golf courses or driving ranges.
“What we’re doing — one we’re bringing up to speed the definition of the offenses, second, the way it was structured there were fines of $500 — there was no discretion,” he said. “We put in all the procedures to allow it to go to administrative judication. People won’t have to go to court as they’ve done in the past. We were trying to upgrade everything.”
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.