Residents and dogs rally support to reopen Evanston’s Dog Beach


Shannon Tyler/Daily Senior Staffer

The Evanston dog beach was Evanston’s only dog park until it closed in 2016 due to high lake levels, now dogs are running freely along its shore.

Shannon Tyler, Assistant City Editor

After six years without access to the Evanston dog beach, furry friends ran along the shore, dug in the sand and jumped into the lake Saturday morning. They accompanied their owners at a rally to support the reopening of the area as a dog beach. 

The strip of sandy land just south of Clark Street Beach first closed in 2016 due to high lake levels and unsafe conditions. As water levels have receded and conditions have improved, residents created a petition calling on the city to reopen the beach. 

“There was a good reason to close it down, and now there’s a good reason to bring it back,” resident and rally organizer Mike Meyers said. “Mother Nature said it’s time to bring the dogs back to the beach.” 

Meyers and other residents spoke at the Oct. 10 City Council meeting requesting the council dedicate time and money to finally reopening the beach. The space is Evanston’s only dog park aside from the joint Evanston-Skokie Pooch Park.

The day after residents spoke at City Council, the city put up a fence and gate around the beach ––  the first step toward reopening it.  

Meyers said the park has gone untouched for so long because openings take time and money that the city didn’t want to invest. But City Manager Luke Stowe said there were ongoing internal discussions about dog parks, and when residents brought up their concerns, the city acted quickly.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st), who joined the residents Saturday, said the city’s swift action reflects a change in leadership, including at the city manager and alderperson level. 

“It didn’t take that long. It didn’t take months of work and consultants,” Kelly said. “They did it. They got it up and it’s improved the quality of life for so many people now with dogs.”

Dog parks have been a discussion in the city for a while, Kelly said. After the initial dog beach closure, the city received several requests to open a park within city limits. Evanston also budgeted money for a dog park project with $110,000 in funding from the 2021 Capital Improvement Fund money as well as an $85,000 donation from Northwestern as part of its 2020 Good Neighbor Fund. 

The city initiated a survey to look at several location options for a park in 2021, but no work had been done to create one. 

Resident Leslie McMillan said the current dog beach is the perfect location for a park because the dogs can enjoy the long shoreline and the water. 

“They love it. There’s not a whole lot of open land for them to run in otherwise, because we don’t have a dog park, although it’s been promised to the residents for a long time,” she said.

Stowe said there is still work to be done to make the park more ADA accessible, improve fencing and expand the area by excavating the boulders lining the beach. NU’s donations will help make these improvements, Stowe said. 

As dog owners entered the gates to the beach, Meyers encouraged them to sign a petition supporting the permanent reopening of the dog beach by next season, which runs from April to November 2023. He said after the event, the petition got about 50 signatures. 

“Combining love of dogs with the beach, there’s just nothing better than that,” said McMillan. “Here in the city of Evanston, I think this is what our crown jewel is.” 

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Twitter: @shannonmtyler

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