City Council to bark about local dog park Monday

A dog stands behind a metal gate with a “Beach Officially Closed” sign.

Ciara McCarthy/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston’s fenced-off dog beach closed in 2016 due to rises in Lake Michigan water levels. Though Skokie Park District’s Pooch Park is a shared facility with Evanston, community members have emphasized the need for a more accessible park.

Jorja Siemons, Assistant City Editor

In 2016, a rising Lake Michigan submerged Evanston’s fenced-off dog beach. Attempts by the city of Evanston Parks and Recreation and city of Evanston Public Works Agency to keep the fenced-off beach in operation — which included trucking in sand and temporary relocation — ultimately failed.

Now, five years later, the city’s moving the ball forward on a new dog park. The potential locations will be discussed at Monday night’s Council meeting.  

Currently, Evanston residents can use Pooch Park, a 2.7 acre dog park located east of the North Shore Channel and north of Oakton. The Skokie Park District operates the park as a shared facility with Evanston, who in turn pays for a share of the maintenance costs. 

But the park lies outside Evanston. City Project Manager Stefanie Levine said in a memo the park is not easily accessible to Evanston residents who walk or bike.

In creating their dog park proposal, city staff’s public engagement process included two public meetings and an online survey, which had over 1,800 responses. 

Staff found Evanston dog owners overall to be in “great support” of the process, according to the memo by Levine. But some neighbors of potential park locations expressed opposition, though the memo didn’t elaborate on the opposition’s content.

The memo lists several options for Council to consider as it moves forward in developing the dog park, including acquiring new property for park development. Though this option has support among Evanston dog owners and non-dog owners alike, it will require a budget far greater than the current $110,000 earmarked for the park, according to the memo. 

The 2020 Good Neighbor Fund — rebranded to the Good Neighbor Racial Equity fund last summer  — provided $85,000 of the funding for the park. The fund was allocated by former Mayor Steve Hagerty in November 2019.

Another proposed option is using existing park space with no other current city programming. However, the memo states staff have not evaluated this option because these spaces are “generally inadequate to meet the current usage demands.”

According to Cook County law, off-leash dog areas must be their own permanent park spaces and cannot be used at the same time for other recreation. They must be fenced off with secure gates only accessible to permit holders. 

From the public meeting and the results of the survey, city staff identified a short-list of potential dog park locations, including Clark Square, Lovelace Park and Ingraham Park. Though all three city parks have adequate available space, staff reported substantial opposition from their immediate neighbors. 

According to the memo, Clark Square is the “best rated site,” but also prompted the most organized opposition.

Residents are expected to speak on the future of the Evanston dog park plans during public comment on Monday night. If council identifies an option to move forward, city staff will proceed with implementation in 2022. Otherwise, the funding will be reallocated in the 2022 budget. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @JorjaSiemons 

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