Solving the dog park issue will require citizen involvement


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As long time Oak Park homeowners, we've enjoyed the village's many services, diversity and culture. We discovered the community of dog owners when we introduced our puppy to the dog group at Lindberg Park. We have attended every weekend, year-round, ever since. It has helped to socialize our dog and to provide the necessary exercise that dogs, just like people, need on a regular basis.

About two years ago Oak Park dog owners were faced with the parks closing to off-leash activity. A compromise and temporary solution was developed together with the park district while its Comprehensive Plan was developed. This was a village issue, resolved within the village, and was a workable solution for everyone. However, this is no longer a village matter only. The Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control is requiring the park pistrict to comply immediately with new rules regarding dog parks and to cease and desist current off-leash activity.

This was weekend Number One without dog parks! Those of us who visited the parks (on-leash, of course, and under the watchful eyes of multiple Cook County Animal Control paddy wagons) experienced frustrated and anxious dogs straining for their familiar and accustomed romp.

We urge the Park District of Oak Park to evidence a sense of urgency by first, continuing to work with the dog owners group to immediately find a temporary solution, within the community, to allow our dogs to exercise and socialize off leash. We believe Ridgeland can be made compliant with Cook County rules very quickly, as it already has some of the needed infrastructure. The park district must keep in mind that the needs of dogs are to run, not just mill around in a small space. Larger dogs and hunting and herding breeds need an area large enough to get up a full head of steam. Secondly, and more importantly, we urge the park board commissioners to prioritize dog parks on the park district's comprehensive plan and implement the solution in 2006.

This is not an issue that the park district can or will solve on its own. They need and want citizen involvement. Two weeks ago we had two dog parks, Lindberg and Ridgeland, which are now both closed. Three years ago there were groups from Mills and Barrie parks as well. Let's all join forces and combine our efforts to work with the park district. Whether you own a dog or not, we urge you to join at: http:/

Let's make our four legged friends as welcome in our village as everyone else is.

Barbara Kwiatkowsky and Mike Farley

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