Tails wag in excitement as Evanston Dog Beach is set to reopen


Madison Bratley/Daily Senior Staffer

One four-legged Evanston resident plays with sand. Before it closed in 2018, Evanston Dog Beach was the city’s only dog park.

Casey He, Assistant City Editor

The Evanston Dog Beach will officially reopen Wednesday — to the delight of the city’s four-legged residents.

The dog beach, located between Clark Street Beach and the Church Street Boat Ramp, allows dog owners to let their beach buddies off the leash and enjoy some Lake Michigan fun. 

But in 2018, rising lake levels caused the city to permanently close the beach. 

Tim Carter, Evanston’s recreation manager, said the lake level has been rising significantly since 2018 and reached a record high in 2020, submerging the dog beach and flooding lakefront paths and parks.

The water level has since retreated, he said, which made reopening the dog beach possible.

“Right now, staff feels comfortable where (the lake level) is safe enough to operate the beach where people can stay on land and the dogs can get in the water,” Carter said.

Evanston resident Mike Meyers said the dog beach helped motivate him — and his dogs, which he calls “beach dwellers” — to move to the 1st Ward more than 15 years ago.

Before the beach closed, he said he took his dogs regularly. 

“At some point, Mother Nature made the beach go away,” he said. “It used to be this big, beautiful thing, and then all of a sudden the water came up and literally evaporated the dog beach.”

With the dog beach closed, Meyers has been bringing his two dogs to Pooch Park, a fenced dog park shared by Evanston and Skokie where they can go unleashed. People also bring their dogs onto Clark Street Beach, though Meyers said it is not allowed and less safe both for the dogs and other beachgoers. 

Since the city closed the dog beach, Meyers said he walked by it regularly. Last fall, he said he noticed the water level had retreated significantly, making a fair amount of the beach visible. 

An avid “dog guy,” Meyers said he contacted Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) and spoke at City Council with a group of fellow dog owners to request that the council work toward reopening the beach.

To rally support, he also organized a “bark-in” protest Oct. 15 outside the dog beach. But when the dog owners arrived, they found the beach open.

“We all were out there with our protest signs,” Meyers said. “Instead of a protest, it became a party.”

With Cook County’s permission, Carter said the city was able to reopen the dog beach unofficially for several months starting in October before closing down for the winter. He added that the city has always been trying to reopen the beach since it closed. 

Evanston resident Rishabh Juneja moved to Evanston with his Australian shepherd Brio in September. He brought Brio to the dog beach several times when it was open last year.

“It was nice when I came here to see there was this dog beach where he could socialize with other dogs because he loves that,” Juneja said. “I was very sad when it closed down, so I’m looking forward to (the reopening).”

With the dog beach officially reopening, Carter said the city will be mandating passes for entry, as it did prior to closure in 2018. The passes cost $75 per dog for Evanston residents and $200 for non-residents. They go on sale Monday. 

Carter said the city expects to keep the beach open until next winter, when the weather makes it unsafe. However, Meyers and Juneja said they’re hoping to see the beach stay open all year. 

“People are comfortable with making the judgment as to when it’s safe to take their dog to the beach or not,” Juneja said. 

With the city charging for the beach pass, Meyers said he’d like to see Evanston improve the beach’s facilities by adding features like a dog waste bag dispenser and a hose, along with regular cleaning services. 

But either way, he said he is excited to return to the dog beach. 

“It’s not just for dogs,” Meyers said. “It’s for people too. It’s a great way to bond with people. It’s hard to not like someone who has a dog.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @caseeey_he

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