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Dog Friendly Area Proposal: Q & A

Welcome Friends and Neighbors!

In response to requests over the years for a dog park, the Horner Park Advisory Council has formed a Dog Friendly Area Committee (the “DFAC”). In addition to informal surveys of friends and neighbors, the DFAC conducted a written survey, which was on the Horner Park Advisory Council website for over a year. Those surveys showed overwhelming support for the idea of a dog friendly area in Horner Park. As such, the DFAC has now begun the process of getting a dog park in place. We are currently in the early stages of a very long process, but we are pleased to have the support of Alderman Richard Mell and Alderman Ameya Pawar. We hope that you too will join us in giving your support for this project.

What are the steps?
The Chicago Park District has outlined a set of requirements that must be fulfilled in order to have a Dog Friendly Area (“DFA”) developed. First, the DFAC must define a space for the dog park. Next, the DFAC must conduct usage surveys of the proposed area over the course of a year, petition the surrounding neighborhood for signatures of support and provide a list of site amenities. The DFAC also must obtain additional community support and consent through the holding of public meetings. Finally, project construction costs must be secured before the Chicago Park District will get involved with the final design process and development of the DFA.

What is the vision?
The DFAC wants to create the largest “grass” dog park in Chicago. We want a safe space with plenty of room for the dogs to run and play. To that end, the DFAC identified a 1.89 acre underutilized site at the South end of Horner Park to run along Irving Park from the river to California inside current walking paths, extending to the North short of the walking path. The proposed dog park would be fully fenced and surfaced with a canine grass, a lead-free artificial turf designed for dogs. The trees that currently dot the landscape would remain. Additional landscaping may be added but none of the park’s current concrete paths or other amenities would be disturbed. A dog-friendly water fountain would be installed. Other amenities may be added over time as finances permit.

Why that location? Why 1.89 acres? Why canine grass?
The Chicago Park District guidelines restrict the size of a dog friendly area to no more than 3.5% of the park. Accordingly, 1.89 acres is the maximize size allowed in Horner Park. The South end was chosen as it is does not interfere with the use of the playground, tennis courts, basketball courts, ball field, field house or river. Current Park District regulations do not allow natural grass surfaces for dog friendly areas so artificial canine grass was selected as the next best alternative. From a distance it will look like natural grass and help maintain the natural aesthetic of the park.

How much will it cost to build? Who’s going to pay for it?
The Chicago Park District does not obtain project costs until further along in the process, but projected costs are in the hundreds of thousands. The DFAC will have to raise all of the funds needed for this project by asking for contributions from individuals, private and public corporations, community groups and government entities as well as applying for grants and holding fundraisers. The Chicago Park District DFA Guidelines provide that the Chicago Park District may contribute up to $75,000 of the cost, dependent on the availability of funds. However, the Chicago Park District has indicated that it has no funds available to contribute at this time.

Will any fees be imposed on dog owners to use the dog park?
Currently the Chicago Park District requires a dog permit to use any of its DFA’s including the Foster/Montrose beach area. The annual cost of the permit is $5 and can be obtained at participating veterinarians. The purpose of the permit is to protect the individuals and dogs using the DFAs by ensuring that all of the dogs visiting the park are properly vaccinated.

Will other areas of the park become off limits to dogs once the dog park is built?
The development of the dog park will change neither the parks’ rules, nor the city’s leash laws or the city’s enforcement priorities. Owners will have the same choices they now have as to how they and their pets use the park. Please note that the Chicago Park District does not allow dogs on its playgrounds or on its tennis courts. City ordinances also require dogs to be leashed and owners to pick up after their dogs. Enforcement of these ordinances is the responsibility of Chicago Police. Neither the Chicago Park District nor the DFAC can issue tickets.

Who is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the DFA?
The DFAC will have ongoing responsibilities to assist in the maintenance and clean up of the DFA.

Why should I support the development of a DFA in Horner Park?
We ask for your support in the development of a DFA in Horner Park so that our neighborhood dogs can have a convenient and safe place to exercise, play and socialize legally off-leash. We understand that when the park is relatively empty many people choose to play with their dogs through the middle of the park or along the river, but when the park is crowded there is no where for them to go. Additionally, owners who don’t want to risk getting fined or having their dogs get lost or hurt by running into the street will have a place to take their dogs to exercise. We hope that if people have a nice, big, fun place just for dogs, they will choose to use it, thereby reducing the potential for off-leash dogs to come into conflict with runners, bikers, children, sports teams or leashed dogs who are also using the park.

How can I get involved?
If you would like to join the Dog Friendly Area Committee or be on the mailing list for further updates, please contact: DFAC@hornerpark.org.

How can I make a donation to the DFA fund?
If you would like to donate online please go to HornerPark.org and click on the “Donate” tab. Choose “Dog Friendly Area” from the menu and follow the instructions. (If this function is not up yet, it will be soon. Thanks for your patience!)  The Horner Park Advisory Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization so your contribution will be tax deductible.
Please note that we are in the early stages of a long process. The DFA proposal and information here is subject to change in response to comments and concerns from the Park District and/or the community as we move forward. We will do our best to keep you updated.

Thanks!

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