Search for Dog Park Plus falls short

Portion of Stevenson Park remains as temporary option

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By Marty Farmer

Sports Editor

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.

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Feline Fanatic from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2013 10:12 AM

When can cat lovers like me expect a Cat Park Plus? I would really love a fenced in area where Whiskers can run free. People look at me like I'm some kind of weirdo whenever I walk him on a leash.

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 8:53 PM

The Cook County ordinance section relating to animals is at,,,,The County Administrator at the Department of Animal Control has consistently ruled that the ordinance restricts the mixing of off leash dog friendly areas (DFA's) with athletic and passive public spaces. This department maintains municipal code authority over park districts relating to animals. In English (and confirmed by the PD attorney) it means the County can and does restrict DFA's and their use.

dog park user  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 7:36 PM

Jim 'e', can you give a link please about the ordinance? I would bet that in any park there is a huge number of dogs passing through as well as on the parkways. I'm more concerned about open sandboxes where racoons, cats, squirrels can go and who can spread more disease than pet dogs who have to be vet-checked in order to obtain a permit. Another point of view, there is a lot of research on avoiding sterile environments. Look up Michael Pollan and Michael Specter and the human biome.

no dog park plus, done deal and I'm glad I don't want my kids playing where your dog crapped  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 4:07 PM

I certainly don't want any dogs peeing in an area that is above my water reservoir (stevenson park) As far as the guy that says to use the money to fix the crack in the tank...different governing bodies. park owns the land, village owns the reservoir.


Posted: September 26th, 2013 3:11 PM

dog park user you are not correct. There are Cook County health deparment regulations which state that children should not be using fields in which a concentration of dogs have been using. I tend to believe the medical experts on this issue.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 1:22 PM

Has anyone considered the area known as the Village Green which is located at the south end of the Village Hall parking lot? It may not be within the Park district but is public land. Plenty of space and parking and access to water should not an issue. Put up a fence and let the pups play.

OP Transplant  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 12:54 PM

Perspective, people. I love my dog. I walk him, I play with him in the yard, sometimes he plays with the neighbor dogs...I'm solidly pro-dog. Still, I don't think the community needs to devote part of its limited public space to those of us who choose to have a certain kind of pet. Will we then need an indoor facility for cat owners? A community tank where our fish can socialize?

dog park user  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 12:48 PM

Inaccuracy #3: We're not all rich; many of us live in condos and apartments. If we have a house it's a tiny yard, at least for most of us. We are grateful for the small dog parks; we just loved getting together with a lot of people whom we knew. I know I miss seeing many of them. Our dogs knew each other; conflicts were pretty low because of the larger space. It was a beautiful thing and made us adore OP even more. So, yes, we're upset. Not just about the dogs.

dog park user  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 12:42 PM

Believe there are some inaccuracies. 1. There are no regulations, state otherwise that prohibit dogs from using the parks. Viilage and PD make their own decisions and decided they don't want many dogs in areas where kids play sports, although dogs are welcome there while on leash. 2.DP+ users simply wanted to use a park during off hours for a couple of hours on the weekend (enclosed--that's a real reg)--not asking for any large amount of dedicated space. We're not that silly.

Selfish Oak Parker  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 12:27 PM

No way the Ike should be expanded because people want to live in Naperville! They should just move close to Oak Park and bicycle downtown. Oh, wait. Wrong article. Hey, if you people want open spaces so Fido can run off leash, move from Oak Park and out to Naperville!

jules from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 10:42 AM

Has everyone forgotten about the nice, new dog park at Maple Park?

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 9:38 AM

Having just retired from the Park Board after 8 years, & as a life-long resident, parent, & dog owner, I was deeply involved in this process from the beginning. From the moment the Cook County Dept of Health banned off-leash dogs in Lindberg in '05, (after persistent complaints by neighbors) the grandfathering DP+ at RC became a temporary solution. It only lasted until this August due to the efforts of the PD & the VOP, in partnership with the newly created affiliate group, Friends of OP Dogs. The PD & FOOPD exhausted all effort (yes, the VOP was included) to find a suitable, stand alone space for DP within our borders. Reality, however, is that the only solution is a regional one at the Forest Preserve. We're a landlocked rectangle. A town of our population should have 4X the open space we have, so all spaces are mulit-purpose by design. Once RC was refurbished, the County would not allow DP there even if the field was natural grass. They do not allow multi-purpose fields to be used for off-leash dog parks. Having used DP myself, I'm fully aware of what it meant to its patrons. Once RC is done, there will be a large, enclosed dog park there, though of course not encompassing the entire field. Dogs are allowed & very welcome on leash in every park. It's not a perfect solution, but one that in my mind offers the best for the most. The regional off-leash park in Miller Meadow is the best & most appropriate solution for the DP model.

Keep griping, it's over, no Dog Park Plus  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 9:27 AM

We can't always get what we want. Sometimes the masses out way the few.

To Bill McClung  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 9:26 AM

"Your dogs are your kids?" Dogs are dogs, pets are pets, kids are kids. Never will you animals be "your kids."

Wowwwwwww from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2013 9:07 AM

How many dog parks do you people need? Don't most of you Richie Rich's have backyards anyways?


Posted: September 26th, 2013 6:07 AM

You're a lively bunch you dog owners. I recall going to sled with my kids after a gathering of you and your four-legged friends at Ridgeland Commons. Trouble was, many had not cleaned up after their dogs and sledding was out of the question. Clean up after your pup!

Bill McClung from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 8:27 PM

The OPPD has acted disgustingly towards the Dog Owners of Oak Park... They are fitting artificial turf at Ridgeland when there is plenty of evidence that this has to be replaced every 10 years at great expense, it is unhealthy for the users and restricts the use of the space from dogs. The OPPD has had years to find an alternative for Dag Park Plus but have failed the dogloving community and the dogs. We don't use the hockey or swim facility but want a decent bit of ground to allow our dogs to run free. The strip of laand offered at Stevenson in totally unsuitable...there are too many dogs for the space. One can't throw a ball without hitting someone or their dog. TWhenever it rains the ground soil washed out onto the roadway exposing the plastic grating underneath. The OPPD employee has to shovel this into a barrow and haul it back into the park...opening and shutting the gate while the dogs are running loose. As for the elected score system to evaluate the other park spaces...that was a joke. There was virtually no way for any park to meet that criteria. In fact one has to ask if even Ridgeland would. Over 80% of my very high taxes go to educating the kids (a service we have never used in this community. I'd hope that the portion that the OPPD get would at least give us something we want - but again it all seems to go for the kids... The dogs are our kids... As for Dicey - It's a pity that you are not more like a dog - color blind and plays well with others.


Posted: September 25th, 2013 6:35 PM

Article reads like a press release from the park district. PD is an ugly thing these days.

Julia Martin from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 3:43 PM

Owners and their dogs form a citizen brigade: we render it safe to walk the streets, and use the parks, at all hours, in all weather, every day. The Park District, and its favored constituency of soccer parents (with environmentally-disastrous artifical turf), need a reminder. During October, I will no longer daily walk Taylor and Lindberg. Fellow owners: consider joining me. Let us see how the lack of foot traffic and oversight plays out.

OP Resident # 545 from OAK PARK  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 2:14 PM

Ms. Carlisle, what "high value green spaces" are you referring to? RC is & always was an athletic field. The turf will allow for more play while allowing real grass spaces to properly rest, thereby enhancing their "greenness". You are wrong about the skate park. The entire block that houses Stevenson has always been a cement reservoir for water. Nothing was cemented's always been cement. The skate park was a very creative repurposing of the slab.

Linda Carlisle from oak park  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 1:52 PM

Its pathetic that a town so dedicated to being green gave up a high value green spaces for plastic turf. We cemented over another part of Stevenson so a handful of kids can skateboard. But several hundred dog owners get an skinny "driveway" to play with their dogs in an open space. The quality of life is definitely fallling. Btw do y'all know that the reason that we can't use the rest of the park is that the water table lid is cracked? Astroturf fund wouldve been better spent repairing that

Cindy from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 1:16 PM

Hey dicey, I have a dog that I walk & also take to the dog park - she loves interacting with other dogs & I enjoy the human socialization too. I am white & not wealthy, rich, or well to do - I see no reason to bring race or income into's about our dogs, let's keep it that way.

dog park user  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 12:49 PM

Dicey, Wow. People of color use the dog park too--there's no discrimination.

Ice skaters in the family  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 12:46 PM

Any facility is a luxury not a right, including ice rinks, pools, etc. Those are super luxuries because of the high cost. Dog owners just wanted a place to let their dogs off leash. If your dog had input, he or she would much prefer running in a large space given he/she is okay with other dogs and people. People from the Farmer's Market always stopped by and the dogs always gave great joy to babies, tots, and kids of all ages. It's a real loss to the community on many levels

Keith J. Taylor from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 12:18 PM

I am very disappointed in this whole evaluation process. The Park District had SEVEN years to find a suitable option to replace the Dog Park + at Ridgeland Common. Dog Park has proven to be extremely popular with dogs and their owners. The Park Board could/should have worked with the Village to find a suitable space. Maybe next time.

Dog Friendly from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 12:12 PM

Many families with children have dogs too. Baseball games at Ridgeland with the dogs running in the background in the spring made for a wonderful time had by all.

I too have dogs and pay taxes  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 11:52 AM

just be patient until the new place opens at ridgeland. all of us ice skaters aren't complaining because there isn't anywhere for us to skate during construction. Just to be clear, state law mandates that dogs be leashed at all times when out in the public. Dog park plus in a luxury, not a right.

Park District Anti-Dog  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 11:18 AM

Yes, the whole scoring thing is a scam, a transparent attempt to be objective, but it shows how anything objective is very much determined by a particular point of view and desired outcome. No matter how the PD brands itself with its weak attemps at incorporating the family pet in its special activities, it still has failed many OP families who have loved dog park plus. Reporters should come out to DP+ to get the full story.

Austin Healy from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 9:28 AM

Would someone please run for Park District Board who is dog friendly. The current Board could not be more anti-dog if it tried.

Disgusted Tax Payer from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 7:04 AM

There is no space and no money for dogs and their tax paying owners. This is especially maddening as we watch the expensive new construction at Ridgeland and at Lake and Humphrey. The Park District Board is only serving families with children.

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