By Marty Farmer
The search for a suitable Dog Park Plus location among the Park District of Oak Park locations came up short based on a nine-point criteria established by the park board at a July board meeting.
In order for any of the parks to merit further consideration as a Dog Park Plus location, the prospective parcel of land had to earn a minimum rating of 20 points based on the nine criteria.
The following criteria were assessed: size, cost of implementation, impact to neighborhood, compatibility with existing uses, its proximity to South Blvd./East Ave., ability to regrow grass/site recovery, access to water, access to parking and potential conflicts with existing local, county, state and federal regulations.
Of the 16 locations considered, a portion of Stevenson Park scored the highest rating at 12.5, followed by Longfellow and Anderson each at 7.5.
Stevenson scored particularly well in the size (square feet), cost of implementation and compatibility with existing uses categories but fell short of the required 20 points overall. All the parks within the park district were evaluated by John MacManus of landscape architecture/urban-design contractor Altamanu Inc. and his team, with their findings reported at the park board meeting on Aug. 15.
"John led our [initial] Dog Park Plan study in 2006," Park District of Oak Park Executive Director Jan 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."
Unfortunately, no parcel of land reached the minimum threshold for further consideration. After careful consideration, park board members decided a right fit for a Dog Park Plus couldn't be found.
The park district opened a temporary Dog Park Plus at the southeast corner of Stevenson Park, 49 Lake St., on Aug. 10 to accommodate dog owners and their dogs while all the parks were evaluated by Altamanu. Input from members of Friends of Oak Park Dogs, has also been considered during the search process.
Utilizing Stevenson Park, 36 dog owners and 42 dogs came out during the location's opening as a temporary Dog Park Plus site. The park board has agreed to continue to provide the temporary option at Stevenson and will evaluate its use moving forward.
The temporary Dog Park Plus location is available from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. A dog park permit must be displayed for admittance.
In addition to the temporary Dog Park Plus location at Stevenson Park, the park district offers two permanent dog parks: Maple Park Dog Park (established in 2009) and Ridgeland Dog Park (under renovation, scheduled to reopen in the spring 2014). The park district is also offering Sniff n' Strut and Trick of Tails programs for dog owners and their dogs.
Another option for dog owners is the scheduled opening in 2014 of a 7-acre 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.