CHICAGO (CBS) — For decades, camping in the forest preserves has been available only to organized groups—until now.

This summer, the Forest Preserves of Cook County is opening five new and revitalized campgrounds to families, groups and individuals of all ages and interests.

Whether you’re staying in a tent, a cabin, a bunkhouse or an RV, you’ll get a chance to hear owls, paddle a canoe, stargaze and watch the sun rise over the trees.

Or you can try one of our many free programs to learn about local nature or hone your outdoor skills.

Camp Shabonna Woods, in South Holland, officially kicked off the new initiative on Friday with a ribbon cutting.

Camp Shabbona Woods in South Holland opened on Friday, the first of five new or renovated campgrounds being introduced by the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Camp Shabbona Woods in South Holland opened on Friday, the first of five new or renovated campgrounds being introduced by the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

For details on Shabonna Woods and four other site-Camp Sullivan in Tinley Park, Camp Reinberg in Palatine, Bullfrog Lake in Willow Springs and Dan Beard in Northbrook–can be found here. Reservations can be made online, by phone or in person.

A new cabin at Camp Shabonna Woods. (Credit: Cook County)

A new cabin at Camp Shabonna Woods. (Credit: Cook County)

Forest Preserve District general superintendent Arnold Randall said the camps are for newbies and veterans alike.

“In the past, you could only camp if you were in a private organized group, or the scouts, which are great, but we wanted to open it up to families and individuals,” he told WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya.

Campers will be able to sleep in tents or in cabins, and if they don’t have their own camping equipment like tents or sleeping bags, they can rent them.

Cook County Forest Preserve District Board President Toni Preckwinkle talked about her drive to Camp Shabonna as some people were already starting their holiday weekend.

“I’m sure that there were lots of cars heading to Indiana and Michigan and Wisconsin for a weekend of camping, but for the first time in 50 years, some of them will be able to go a much shorter distance. They’ll be coming here to Camp Shabonna to enjoy the wilderness of Cook County,” she said.

Randall said camping is a great way to introduce people to nature and conservation.

Many different kinds of programs will be offered at the camps. For instance, the Sand Ridge Nature Center is “a five minute walk from the campsites” at Camp Shabonna around 158th and Torrence, according to Randall. Other programs at Camp Shabonna and the other camps that will open later this summer include archery, Camping 101, and horseback riding.

Camping fees range from $35 per night for a tent site with no electricity to $100 per night for a cabin that sleeps 10. Non-Cook County residents pay a little more. It’s cheaper Sunday through Wednesday nights and from November through March.

Randall said nearly all the campsites at Camp Shabonna are booked already for this holiday weekend.