The dog park situation in Oak Park is slightly different from the one in River Forest because of the latter’s proximity to the Cook County Forest Preserves. Convenience is an issue, which is likely why a previous proposal to locate a dog park in Thatcher Woods didn’t fly with Oak Park dog owners.

It does, however, make sense for River Forest. For one thing it’s close?#34;just past Thatcher Avenue and just a short distance north of Chicago Avenue. The Thatcher Woods meadow has ample room for a fenced area that wouldn’t limit other recreational uses?#34;and the area is notoriously underused anyway.

A dog park in Thatcher Woods would also allow taxpayers to see a real return on their investment rather than the black hole for taxes that most of us experience when we consider county government. The local forest preserves have for decades served only the tiniest minority of local residents. That’s a shame and a waste, as we’ve been saying in this space for years. Though we don’t propose turning it into a water park, anything that increases the use of these woods in a responsible way should be encouraged. A dog park in the meadow seems to fit the bill.

The problem with the currently proposed Washington Park Triangle is space and proximity to neighbors. In landlocked communities like Oak Park and River Forest with limited park space, that’s a bigger issue. On the one hand, Triangle Park is mostly passive green space and underused. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but neither is there necessarily anything wrong with a viable recreational use. If, however, an attractive alternative exists, it should get preference. We believe Thatcher Woods is preferable to Triangle Park.

Yes, bureaucracy would be involved (licensing, etc.), but that would also apply to any River Forest facility.

Local residents have benefited very little from the proximity of the Cook County Forest Preserves. We would like to see that change. A dog park is as good a place as any to start.

Another ‘Apple’ for D97

For the second year in a row, District 97 can boast a winner of the Golden Apple, the state’s premier teaching honor. Congratulations to Sandy Noel who beat the odds to win. Physical education instructors are rarely recognized, but Noel does a lot more than teach gym. She has spearheaded the movement to improve nutrition awareness among her students and has done more than her share to raise the awareness within the district about the quality (or lack thereof) of lunches offered by the schools. Dist. 97 still has a ways to go on this front, and we hope this honor will remind them that progress must continue.

Dist. 97 has had six other Golden Apple winners in recent years, and District 200’s Aaron Podolner likewise joined the ranks a couple of years ago. Recognition of creative, quality teaching has to be reassuring to parents and taxpayers who struggle with the burden of increasing property taxes, but who also prize above all else the excellent schools that Oak Park offers.

District 90 has always been able to boast of its high test scores (and we trust that will continue in the wake of last night’s referendum vote), but Dist. 97 has long faced the more difficult educational challenge posed by greater diversity and larger numbers of low-income students. Creativity is essential, and we hope that continues to be recognized by awards like the Golden Apple.

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