Park district looking for right site for new Oak Park dog park

Synthetic turf means new spot for Dog Park Plus

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By Marty Farmer

Staff Reporter

With construction continuing at Ridgeland Common, local dog lovers are about to lose another pup amenity as the so-called Dog Park Plus will be closing Aug. 4. The permanent dog park at Ridgeland Common has already closed though it will reopen in spring 2014 when construction is complete at the complex.

In the meantime, the park district is working to find a new home for the larger though time limited Dog Park Plus concept which allows dogs more space to roam off-leash within a fenced-in environment.

The current space at Ridgeland Common will close permanently next month due to the installation of synthetic turf. That leaves the park district in the exploratory stages of relocating what has been a four-hour per week window for the dog run. So far finding a useable space has been challenging as multiple locations have been considered and discarded.

"We are sensitive to the fact that our dog parks and Dog Park Plus offer an important component of socialization for some members and their dogs within our community," said Jan Arnold, the executive director of the park district. "We'll continue to work on finding a location that is a good fit for them, as well as the rest of the Oak Park community. Of course, the safety of our residents is of primary importance."

The park board will hold a public meeting July 11 at Cheney Mansion, 220 N. Euclid Ave., for an open discussion of the possibilities. That meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. Members of Friends of Oak Park Dogs have been invited to the meeting as are members of the general public.

At a March 6 meeting to discuss the future location of Dog Park Plus, the southeast corner of Stevenson Park — Lake and Humphrey — was proposed for the new dog run. However, dog owners expressed concern that the proposed space was too small. Other parks under review included Longfellow and Fox, but they ultimately weren't attractive relocation options due to a lack of perimeter fencing.

After the March 6 meeting, the park district turned to John Mac Manus from Altamanu, Inc., a regular park district contractor, to conduct additional due diligence regarding a future location.

Mac Manus and members of FOOPD toured several parks in Oak Park including Maple and Andersen and reassessed the larger sports field areas at Stevenson.

"John led our Dog Park Plan study in 2006," Arnold said. "He has become a dog park expert and done comprehensive studies on every inch of available space within Oak Park. John has been involved since Day 1 and his expertise on knowing the criteria for a new Dog Park Plus location is invaluable."

Regardless of which park is chosen as the new site for Dog Park Plus, all location options will be vetted through a public meeting process to gain input from across the community.

"The park district is known for trying to hear all voices," Arnold said. "As we look at our properties, there will be public comment opportunities for everybody including not only our dog owners, but non-dog owners and people who live by parks being considered. At this point in our relocation search, no site has been determined."

In terms of financing a new Dog Park Plus, the primary costs are fencing and staffing the location (already an incurred cost). Currently, Oak Park has approximately 380 dog park pass holders who pay an annual fee of $45.

"The timing of actually finding a new location has been the most challenging part," Arnold said. "We're eager to find a resolution especially with Dog Park Plus closing on Aug. 4, but there are a lot of factors involved."

Other good news for Oak Park dog owners is the scheduled opening in 2014 of a regional dog park at Miller Meadow (located just north of Cermak Road at First Avenue) by the Cook County Forest Preserve District. The expansive dog grove will allow dog owners the opportunity to exercise their dogs in large, open areas.


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Dave Coulter  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 6:02 PM

I like dogs - I really do - but honestly - how much socialization do they really need? I'd sign up for a park district class to help ME with MY socialization skills. Brother!

OP res  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 5:43 PM

Mona Lisa, I don't see the connection here. These people just want a spot to let their dogs run for a couple of hours on the weekend. That's it. They're not asking for handouts or anything expensive. I think your anger is misdirected.

Mona Lisa  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 4:47 PM

It seems that some places will always be about petty things. Should residents of Oak Park/River Forest be reminded, that we live in the world that is cruel to the people too. Look around and see all the homeless and needy. I guess when you are rich all that matters is you and what you think is important . Wake up people! Dogs are great but too many people eat dog food today....


Posted: July 4th, 2013 11:26 AM

Hi Deb - Details are hazy in my mind, but I seem to recall that, some years back, Maple Park was completely over-run with dogs and accompanying poop piles. Immediate neighbors were unhappy with the status quo (and rightfully so) and full scale run of the park was scaled back for everyone's use and enjoyment.

Deb from Oak Park  

Posted: July 4th, 2013 7:19 AM

As a life long Oak Parker I have passed Maple Park on a daily basis and cannot understand why there is only a small corner being used for a dog park. The entire north end of that park is never used. Why was it that when it was being planned was it made so small. There is absolutely no where for the dogs to run! Why can't the village make that park larger, there is more than enough room in Maple Park for a larger dog park. Let's use the space that we have!

Big dogs need room to run  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 9:15 PM

It was great to watch the big dogs run and play at Ridgeland while baseball games were being played there. I drive by the Harlem park every day and it is empty. It looks too small for a gathering of big dogs. The Forest Park dog park is always full of activity, by the way. Maybe someone should study what they've done there.

Happiness personified  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 5:19 PM

Is you want to see beauty and joy, come to Ridgeland Common on the weekend and watch our best friends run and play. If you want great conversation and an immediate community, get a dog park pass and join us. Everyone is friendly and inclusive.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 3:57 PM

Marty, I'm hoping to be able to attend the meeting, and think it's critical that we let the board know our opinions. But I still think the dog parks are not sufficiently well designed (as evidenced by the generally scarce number of dogs who use them). I find the new south Harlem dog park just as poorly designed as the old Ridgeland one, and very rarely see any dogs there. (My biggest priority is opportunity for doggie socialization. If there are no dogs, there's no use for me to be there.)

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 3:04 PM

Phil, there is a new Dog Park at Maple Park (south OP), and there will also be a Dog Park at Ridgeland Common (north OP) when it's done. These two plus the larger regional facility in the Forest Preserve will ideally provide us dog owners with enough off-leash options.

David Moon from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 3:01 PM

Friends of Oak Park Dogs ( will be well represented at the July 11 meeting. We encourage like-minded dog owners to join us and look forward to two-way conversation with the board.

no worries  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 2:19 PM

Don't worry. There certainly won't be any dogs at Longfellow or Fox prk or any other park. Very low on the priorities list.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 12:32 PM

Ridgeland, Stevenson, Fox, Longfellow - notice a pattern here? How come there isn't any discussion of a dog park in any of the more spacious parks on the NORTH side of town? Plenty of room in those parks to incorporate a dog park the size of Forest Park's.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 12:09 PM

I agree, Marty, that space is tight around here, but I don't really buy your explanation. The park in Forest Park is heavily used (way more than OP's, aside from 2 hours Sat. AM), but it's still in Cook County and far from spacious. A few hundred square feet, if well designed and reasonably priced, would be sufficient for dog lovers in OP. The PD can spend $100,000s to barely update Scoville and provides tons of child-friendly activities, but can't scrape together for OP dogs and their owners?

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 11:04 AM

Having been deeply involved in these discussions from the start in 2006 (and a dog owner), the long term answer that was recommended then and remains the answer now a large regional facility in the Forest Preserve District. The Dog Park Plus iterations at Ridgeland and before that at Lindberg were much used, but the PDOP's hands were tied by the Cook County Health Dept. The big reality for our town is that we are land locked, & don't have anywhere near the open space we need for all the things we'd like to do within our borders. As a national benchmark, a town of 50,000 should have 5X the open space that the PDOP has today. Short of capping the IKE, we won't be able to find another 450 acres of open land within our 2 x 3 mile rectangle.

please not in austin g or scoville  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 10:24 AM

Ken, that would be a great option if the pd owned it. Maybe they can approach the owner to lease it on the short term<

Ken from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 10:02 AM

How about the empty space at Lake and Forest? Oh, wait, a hotel is being built there...probably never!

skg from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 8:25 AM

Try Austin Gardens please- it's a dog walking location and I know a lot of folks wish there was one there! Could have added one to the new Scoville Park while you were under construction too!!!

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 7:59 AM

For basically the same price, I'd rather go the distance to Forest Park's supremely better park. It's mulched, nice sized, and always being used. So the dogs get room to exercise, they can get important socialization, and the other dog owners are friendly and responsible. (And it only costs something like $5 for a Forest Park resident.) They probably sell at least twice the memberships as Oak Park, even though they're only 25% the size. If the Park District is serious, they need major changes.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 7:55 AM

The dog park situation in Oak Park is a joke. 380 passes per year? In a town of 50,000? That's 1 dog per more than 125 people. What really is happening is that no one wants to use the dog park beside they're too small, too expensive, and not designed in a way that dogs would enjoy. Dogs sure do love running on a tiny asphalt pad!

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