Evanston makes dog beach passes free for residents, but some question upkeep funding


Daily file photo by Shannon Tyler

Passes for the Evanston Dog Beach are now free for residents following the Parks and Recreation Board’s recent decision to remove the $75 fee.

Kate Walter, Assistant City Editor

Passes for Evanston’s newly reopened dog beach will be free for residents during the 2023 season, the city’s Parks and Recreation Board announced March 17. The city also reduced the fee for second dog passes for non-residents from $200 to $75 per dog.

Evanston officially reopened the dog beach on March 1 for the first time since 2018, mandating paid passes for entry. The city then decided to waive the $75 fee per dog for Evanston residents to “make the Evanston Dog Beach accessible to all residents and their canine companions,” according to a Parks and Recreation Board memorandum from March 16.

In 2018, the city permanently closed the beach, located between Clark Street Beach and the Church Street Boat Launch, due to rising sea levels. After the water levels retreated, it unofficially reopened this past fall following encouragement from residents. Dogs are not allowed on any other beaches in the city.

Evanston resident Mike Meyers said making dog beach fees for residents was a “fair decision,” noting swimming beaches in Evanston are similarly free for residents. 

Tim Carter, Evanston’s recreation manager, said the decision to eliminate the fees came in response to internal discussions and community feedback from dog owners. After the city removed fees, he said they offered refunds to residents who had already.

Carter said the decision aims to  align the dog beach with Evanston’s swimming beaches, which were made free for residents starting in 2022. He also said equity factored into the decision to ensure equal beach access for all residents. Many have criticized Evanston beach regulations, which have historically attempted to block access for Black and low-income residents.

“We’re pleased to be able to remove and reduce cost barriers to ensure that all community members and pets can access and enjoy the beach safely,” Carter said in a statement.

However, some residents questioned how the city will fund beach maintenance — such as waste disposal — without charging residents $75 per dog for use. 

Dog beach patron Nina Donnelly said she appreciates the city’s decision, but questions where the money to fund beach upkeep will come from. 

“I don’t know what the downsides of not having the dog beach being self-sustaining financially are,” Donnelly said. “We have to make up that money someplace else.”

Evanston recently established a dog beach operations fund to support beach upkeep, which comes from community donations. The projected revenue loss of dog beach passes based on previous pass sales is $65,000, according to the March 16 Parks and Recreation Board memorandum.

“The city is committed to maintaining the high level of service and expectations of our residents that our residents expect,” Carter said.

Meyers said dog owners are currently pitching in to maintain the beach. He said he purchased buckets for owners to dispose of their dogs’ waste, which he empties out himself a few times a day.

He also said he’s confident Evanston will step up its upkeep efforts. 

“Hopefully, the city will pitch in a little bit more as the season gets warmer,” Meyers said. “They’ll take care of the beach, it’s too much of an important part of the community to just suddenly let that section of it get trashed out.”

Moving forward, Meyers said he hopes the city will consider lowering the fee for non-residents, who still have to pay $200 for the first dog and $75 for a second. 

Ultimately, he said he’s grateful the beach has become a gathering place for the community. He pointed to the Evanston dog beach Facebook group, which now has over 350 members and boasts photos of four-legged friends enjoying the beach as well as stories from their owners. 

“We’re seeing all kinds of people there, and it’s very quickly become a community,” Meyers said. “It’s a community — certainly for dogs —  and it’s a community for humans.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @katewalter03

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