Picnic permit purchases are a New Year tradition for many Cook County residents. Though winter has just begun, patrons are already thinking ahead, looking to secure locations for future outdoor gatherings.

A picnic permit must be obtained by groups of 25 or more.

Doors will open at 7 a.m. and sales will begin at 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. Friday, January 2 at the Forest Preserves of Cook County General Headquarters building located at 536 N. Harlem Avenue in River Forest. Online purchases will also begin at 8 a.m. on the Forest Preserves website at

A comprehensive registration and data management system was launched last year, making it more convenient for people to reserve sites. Requests for permits for groups larger than 399 people will now be available online in 2015 and may still also be purchased in-person. Online users must create an account and doing so ahead of time is recommended in order to immediately book a location when sales begin. Customers who created profiles in 2014 are advised to use the same log-in information.

Staff will be on hand at Forest Preserve headquarters assisting people with the permit process and selecting the most appropriate places to host events. Similar information is also posted online, including the complete list of all 297 picnic groves as well as maps and the various fees associated with picnic rentals. Online customers needing assistance can contact Forest Preserve staff at 1-800-870-3666(option #2) in the event they experience problems reserving their event space.

“This is one of the busiest times of the year for us,” said Daniel Betts, Director of Permits, Concessions & Volunteer Resources for the Forest Preserves of Cook County. “Preparations began several months in advance of Opening Day in order to assist the hundreds of people looking to buy a permit on opening day and in the weeks and months ahead.”

Nearly ten percent of all annual permits are sold opening day. In 2014, more than one million people visited the Forest Preserves at permitted picnic events.