Let dogs and people run free


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So a dog is man's best friend. I thought about that as I circled the block containing the outdoor track on the morning of July 4th. For those who use the track, the fact that it is closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. is old news. Complaints registered by neighbors along East Avenue because of occasional noise created by early morning users prompted a review of the ordinance governing public use when the facility was created.

This is now being enforced. The track is heavily used by walkers and runners as early as 4:30 a.m. before work when some have the time. As I circled that morning, I saw a score of people leave disappointed as the facility remained locked, apparently in preparation for the fireworks display.

I circled. Civil disobedience? Jump the fence and make them chase me? No, I've been running at 4 a.m. in violation of the ordinance for years and no one would take notice. Ridgeland Common across the street permits the unleashing of dogs from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. A good thing. I circled. I saw dogs running happily. A compromise; people need a place to take their dogs and that seems fair. I saw dogs relieving themselves.

Eventually, teenagers from the park district arrived and started setting up garbage containers. So there was public use to be allowed after all on the 4th, only running on the track was not one of the allowed uses. I circled. I saw one dog mount another. I twisted my ankle on the edge of the sidewalk twice and dodged a moving car on South Boulevard. I circled and thought many people will be permitted on the field encircled by the running track tonight and they will be doing only some of things that the dogs are doing right now. And these people pay taxes.

Well, maybe I should just run the streets. Lots of people do that, but three citizens have been killed on the mean streets of Oak Park and River Forest in recent years, one of them a runner. People have a right to safety but who can figure when a vengeful husband on an all night drinking binge or a hoodlum bent on savaging someone will appear. After all, the police can't be everywhere. But people need a safe place to exercise at a convenient time and if the village can do it for its dogs it ought to do it for its citizens.

Lee Lichtenberg
Oak Park

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