CHICAGO (CBS) — Please be patient.
That’s the message from officials with Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Park, as they work to clean up damage from storms earlier this month.
Some trails opened Wednesday, but CBS 2’s Steven Graves reports much of the area is still in bad shape.
The bright sign at Matthiessen State Park reads “closed” in bold letters.
Take a slow, winding drive inside the gate and you see why. One in ten trees probably was damaged. The fierce August 10th storm known as a “derecho” left weeks-long effects here.
That brought 90 mph winds to the area. Old oak trees snapped like toothpicks. Brown leaves now litter the area.
“It took years to grow that, and the fact that we’re going to have to clean it up. “It’s not going to be the same because this was a nice, completely shaded picnic area,” said Alan Harper.
The damage shut down scenic nature trails, too. The once tranquil, free getaway for those wanting to socially distance is no longer an option.
“Some of the best numbers we had seen in a long time,” said Alan Harper, the site superintendent for the nearby popular Starved Rock State Park.
Progress there, with 15 trails opened Wednesday, but not all is clear or safe. Eight are still closed.
Some people have even tried to sneak into the park. And while it might look safe to climb over something or go under, state officials are warning people about the hidden dangers.
“There could be a branch hanging over your head and it could come loose and strike you. And that’s where the danger lies, and we have these trails closed because there’s a hazard,” Harper said.
He said conservation police have handed out citations. Harper said staff is slowly working with contractors to clear the debris to make it safe and available for people.
“But we just ask for patience,” Harper said.