Easy Strolls 101
by Shannon Burns, Community Engagement Services
Research shows that even a few minutes in nature have many health benefits. Fortunately, whether you’re looking to take a stroll, find a trail that’s walker- or wheelchair-friendly, sit to relax with a book, or picnic with a friend, DuPage preserves have just the thing!
Everything about the preserves is online at dupageforest.org, but there’s a lot of in-person information, too. After all, some people either don’t have internet service or rather prefer to talk to a friendly voice. That’s why the Forest Preserve District’s Visitor Services office is open Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. at 630-933-7248 and at the headquarters office at 3S580 Naperville Road in Wheaton. Visitor Services can help you get maps and directions to the preserves or purchase permits for forest preserve off-leash dog areas, model craft areas, the archery range or private watercraft. (The first permit for each is free for people 65 or older!) The office also knows if there are any planned closures.
For anyone heading out to the preserves, one good way to plan for a visit is to have a “to-go” bag at the ready, containing items such as water and snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, maps of the preserves, and field guides to plants, birds, mammals, or insects. Many also stock their bags with art supplies or a journal, should inspiration strike.
During peak times, some locations can have small amounts of traffic, but taking it slow is always the best course. Once parked, how you enjoy the preserve is up to you. Many people relax in a parked car, taking in the view. Some sit at picnic tables or in lawn chairs on the grass. Others take a pleasant stroll around a trail. Whatever works best is the right way to have a great visit.
If you do hit the trails, it’s important to know that most are considered “multipurpose.” This means that in addition to people on foot you’ll encounter bikes and horses. But if you follow good trail etiquette and walk on the right side of the trail, bikers, joggers, and horses will be able to easily pass on your left. (They should loudly announce “on your left” as they do, but some don’t. Still, if you stay to the right, you’ll be safe.)
There are 60 forest preserves in DuPage, but the ones described on the next page have features that make them especially mobility-friendly. They have asphalt or crushed limestone surfaces graded to accommodate canes, walkers, and wheelchairs on sunny, dry days and parking (including handicap spots with curb cutouts) right where the trails begin. Each has looped trails around a mile or less that begin and end at the same place and benches or shelters with shady places to rest along the way. And they all have accessible flush, pit or portable toilets (as designated with an F, PI or PO.) So read on and start planning your next trip!