Dog park use now free to Oak Park residents

Refundable fee for key card still applies for locals

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

Late last year, Park District of Oak Pak gave village dog owners something of an early Christmas present.

Effective Jan. 1, were able to use the two park district dog parks for free. The fee is still in place for non-residents, and residents need to make a refundable deposit when they get their permits.

According to park district spokeswoman Diane Stanke, the district administration decided that they wanted to make the few areas where dogs can play off-leash more accessible to the growing number of dog owners in Oak Park. And while the parks will lose some revenue, Stanke said that the loss isn't that significant.

The park district operates two dog parks – one at Ridgeland Common and one at Maple Park. Under the park regulations, those are the only areas in local parks where dogs can run off-leash.

Under the previous policy, both residents and non-residents had to buy a permit that acted as a key card. The more dogs the permit holder brought in, the higher the fee.  Stanke explained that the fee was used to cover the costs involved in acquiring and maintaining the dog park entry systems.

She said that the park district has 300 permit-holders, 75 percent of whom are Oak Park residents. According to the park district's website, the number of non-resident permits is capped at 200 per year.

When the park district was putting together a budget last June, a resident asked Jan Arnold, the park district's executive director, why the dog parks required permits while children's playgrounds were free.

Stanke explained that it came down to several factors. With several high-rises going up throughout Oak Park, the number of dog owners is increasing. Meanwhile, dogs running off-leash in the park has been a growing issue.

The dog parks were always meant to be places where dogs could run off-leash safely, and it made sense to make them available to as many people as possible.

"We have also found that dog parks provide another opportunity for community members to meet and socialize" Stanke said." Connecting our community through parks and recreation is what we are all about. "

The Park District of Oak Park voted to approve the new policy during its November 2018 meeting. As before, each permit is valid for one year. Oak Park residents now pay a $10 fee for a permit, but the fee is refunded when the key card is returned. Applicants must show proof of residency. Non-residents pay $20 if they have one dog, and additional $10 if they have a second dog.

In both cases, in order to get permits, dog owners have to show that their pets are healthy

Proof of vaccinations for the current year, including rabies, distemper, kennel cough/Bordetella, para-influenza and parvovirus are required [to get the permit]," Stanke said. "Proof of a negative fecal test for intestinal parasites within the last year must also be provided at the time of registration."

Stanke said that, last year, the park district collected approximately $14,000 from permit sales. Given that 75 percent of the permit-holders are residents, it will lose about $10,500 of that revenue.

Stanke said that the financial impact will be small – and the positive impact was worth it.

"There will be little effect on our finances or operations," she said. "We look forward to providing this amenity to our residents for their enjoyment and the safety and enjoyment of their four-legged friends."

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Tom Leeds  

Posted: January 30th, 2019 9:08 AM

People use my yard as a dog park. Can I charge them a fee?

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