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Outdoor recreation more popular than ever: As Illinois moves into Phase 4, businesses have been working hard to provide safe activities for visitors


GALENA–With summer in full swing, local outdoor recreation businesses and The Galena Territory Association have taken the COVID-19 curve ball in stride.

Getting outside and exercising are ways to social distance while enjoying the warmer weather. Outdoor recreation businesses worked quickly to develop efficient disinfecting methods and social distancing protocols after reopening during the end of May.

Despite COVID-19, Fever River Outfitters in Galena has been busier than ever. People are eager to give canoeing and kayaking a try, and co-owner Sean Carter said the extra disinfection measures feel like second nature at this point.

“We’re huge believers in disinfecting dish soap,” Carter said.

Fever River Outfitters douses all life jackets in Dawn dish soap and scrubs kayaks, canoes and helmets with it as well. An alcohol-based cleanser is used for paddle handles. The extra cleaning takes more employees and time, but everyone knows what is required in order to provide a high level of service and safety.

“I don't think it's going to be over anytime soon. Round two is probably coming, and with customers from all over and from bigger cities, it’s better safe than sorry,” Carter said.

Mackenzie Arthur, owner of Long Hollow Canopy Tours in Galena, said their challenge courses have attracted many participants since reopening. They limited group sizes to two this season, and both the guides and participants wear masks and gloves. Harnesses are not reused from person to person.

“The guides have been awesome,” Arthur said. “Each guide has a different color face covering, and they protect from the bugs, so it feels pretty natural to be wearing them.”

Participants and visitors are doing their share to stay safe as well. Carter and Arthur said they have not experienced any push back about wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

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“Everyone has just adapted to the situation really well,” Arthur said. “People should not be scared to come out and do the courses. We take being safe and healthy seriously, but we also have fun.”

The Galena Territory Association opened the Shenandoah Riding Center; the tennis, pickleball and basketball courts; and the Lake Galena Marina Bait & Tackle Shop on May 29. Every activity is available by reservation with limited capacity.

Steve Wyland, general manager of The Galena Territory Association, said the riding center has been especially popular since reopening. Visitors and members are taking advantage of anything they can get.

“Everyone has been happy to get out and enjoy the amenities,” Wyland said. “And I think until there’s a vaccine, most of these protocols will remain in place.”

The indoor pool at the Owners’ Club opened for lap swimming and water aerobics on June 15. Members must reserve lanes online in advance and wear masks upon entering the building.

Wyland said the indoor pool is averaging around 25 people per day, spaced out in 45-minute increments.

The next amenities to open will be the fitness center and the outdoor pool, which are two of the most popular activities The Galena Territory Association offers. However, their opening is dependent on the regulations listed in the “Restore Illinois Phase 4” plan that will be announced on June 26.

Despite the gray cloud that is COVID-19, people have found ways to stay active and upbeat. Outdoor recreation businesses are taking all the steps necessary to provide a safe environment for both employees and participants.

“Getting outside and exercising is a great social distancing activity,” Carter said. “Just because we have to take extra precautions doesn’t mean people can’t come out and have fun safely.”