Welcome Friends and Neighbors!

So how did we get here?
In response to requests over the years for a neighborhood dog park, the Horner Park Advisory Council (“HPAC”) formed a Dog Friendly Area Committee (“DFAC”) to explore the idea of building a dog park in Horner Park. In addition to informal surveys of friends and neighbors, the HPAC 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 began the formal process outlined by the Chicago Park District for developing a Dog Friendly Area (“DFA”) in Horner Park.  That process included holding community meetings, conducting usage surveys of the proposed area over the course of a year, and petitioning the surrounding neighborhood for signatures.  Over the next year, the DFAC completed over 300 usage surveys and collected over 700 petition signatures. In response, the Chicago Park District approved a .75 acre area in the southwest corner of Horner Park near the intersection of California and Irving Park as suitable for a DFA.

We are grateful to have had the support of former Alderpersons Deb Mell and Ameya Pawar in this effort, as well as continued support from current Alderpersons Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez and Matt Martin. A gracious thank you to Christy Webber Landscapes and its design team who developed concept drawings and to Baxter & Woodman (especially Jonathan Miller) for their engineering services in turning the design concept into construction drawings.

What are the next steps?

Phase I perimeter fencing for the dog park was completed in August, 2018. Work on Phase II construction began in late 2020 and should be completed by the end of Spring 2021. This will include the installation of a paved entryway, water fountain, water feature, small dog area and benches. We are currently fundraising for Phase III, which will include the canine artificial turf play fields, outcropping stone, mulch, and other landscaping features and improvements.

What is the vision?
The DFAC wants to create the largest “grass” dog park in Chicago, where dogs have plenty of room to run and play off leash safely, and legally. To that end, the DFAC identified an underutilized area at the southwest end of Horner Park as the best location. Currently, the dog park is a .75 acre fully fenced-in area of existing grass and soil. Since Chicago Park District rules do not allow natural grass surfaces in dog parks, it will eventually be surfaced with canine grass, a lead-free artificial turf designed for dogs, as soon as we get the funding. The trees that currently dot the landscape would remain, as the goal is to aesthetically integrate the DFA into the natural beauty of the park. 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 has been installed, and other amenities, such as a water feature or agility structures, may be added over time as finances permit.

How much will it cost to build? Who’s going to pay for it?

The total estimated cost for this project is over $400,000. The DFAC has to raise all of the funds needed by asking for contributions from individuals, private and public corporations, community groups and government entities as well as by applying for grants and holding fundraisers. The Park District does not fund dog parks. To date, almost $275,000 has been raised over the course of 6 years. Approximately $55,000 was spent on Phase I, and we now anticipate that Phases II and III will cost another $190,000 each

Will any fees be imposed on dog owners to use the dog park?
The Chicago Park District requires a permit (comes in the form of a dog tag) to use any of its DFAs including the Foster/Montrose beach area. The annual cost of the permit is $10 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 not change the parks’ rules, 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 for 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 dog park?
The DFAC will have ongoing responsibilities to assist in the maintenance and cleanup of the DFA. Please remember, this is volunteer organization, so we rely on the assistance of those who use the park to help keep it in good shape for all. Dog owners are still responsible for picking up after their pets within the dog park. The first Saturday of every month (from 9-11am) has been designated as clean up day. All are welcome and encouraged to pitch in!

Dog Toys?
Please bring only appropriate toys and take them with you when you leave. Toys that are left behind may deteriorate to a point where they create a danger to other dogs and smaller toys may be accidentally swallowed by larger dogs. We understand that sometimes people leave toys thinking that they may be fun for other dogs to play with, and while we appreciate the sentiment, we kindly request that you not do that. Also, if you see broken toys or trash in the dog park while you are there, please help out and throw them away. The dog park is truly a community space where we have to rely on one another to keep it clean. Thanks!

Why is the dog park so muddy?
Currently, the dog park consists of a .75 acre fully fenced in area of existing grass within Horner Park. Since Chicago Park District rules do not allow for natural grass as a surface in dog parks, we will be installing canine turf, mulch, pavers and crushed limestone once sufficient funding is obtained. In the mean time, the grassy area is subject to the harsh conditions of Chicago weather and the use of dogs running in the park and tearing up the ground. After heavy rain, areas within the dog park have a tendency to get muddy, especially by the front gate. Park users can help reduce the problem by moving drinking water bowls away from the front area and onto the more grassy areas near the perimeter fence and towards the back half of the park. Additionally, please empty any water bowls over the side of the fence, and not within the DFA, to prevent muddy patches. The natural grass surface is temporary and we are looking forward to installing the canine turf as soon as possible to eliminate this problem.

Why aren’t there any trash cans within the park?
The Chicago Park District will NOT empty any trash bins within the confines of the dog park. Therefore we have tried to position an existing trash bin as close to the gate, on the outside of the fence, as possible. Please be a good park user and remember to dispose of your dog poop bags, empty water jugs, and any other trash you may have in the trash bins.

Got poop?
Please, please pick up after your dog in the dog park. The last thing anyone wants is to step in poop or have your dog roll in another’s excrement. We believe the vast majority of our users are compliant, but because of the large size of the park, sometimes dogs run out of site of their owners and do their business. This tends to mostly occur along the perimeter fence. We kindly ask that you keep an eye on your pup at all times, in order to make sure you are picking up after him/her and also from a safety standpoint. In addition, be a do-gooder and pick up an unclaimed poop if you see it:-)

Unfortunately, we are not funded to provide poop bags to park users, however, we have set up a bag holder at the gated area to house donated bags. Have an extra bag? Please think of leaving it for someone else. Forgot a bag? Please help yourself.

Can I smoke in the park?
The Chicago Park District does not allow smoking on any Chicago Park District property, including this dog park.

Can I bring food into the park?
No. Human food and doggo food are both prohibited. Most dogs are highly food motivated and bringing food into a dog park is just asking for trouble. Dogs will beg, steal and fight over food. This means no feeding dogs or bringing in treats. If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enjoy a private picnic with your leashed dog elsewhere in the park.

Can I bring kiddos to the park?
Children under 12 are not allowed in the DFA without a parent or guardian and younger children must be very closely supervised. This is both for their own safety and that of the dogs. There are many parks and playgrounds in the city exclusively for children, and only a few parks where dogs can come to play with other dogs. We do not recommend bringing small children into to the dog park. You do so at your own risk, and must closely supervise them

What’s up with the broken glass?

At one point in time, the site that is now Horner Park was used as a dumping ground. When the ground was disturbed during construction, glass fragments and other debris were exposed. The Chicago Park District is aware of the situation and is working on cleaning up the surface glass within the dog park and the greater Horner Park as well.

Is there a separate area for small doggos?
Yes there is!

Are all dogs allowed in the park?
Yes and No. All dog breeds are allowed in the park, everything from Teacup Yorkies, to Pit Bulls, to Mastiffs and everything in between are allowed to enjoy the freedom of running and playing in the park. However, any dog with a known history of aggression or that exhibits dangerous behavior is prohibited from using the park. Please note, that if your perfectly social dog is having an “off” day, be aware of the signals your dog provides and remove him/her and try again another day.

Do dogs need to be neutered or spayed?
No. Intact male and female dogs are allowed to use the park. One exception: female dogs in heat are prohibited from using the park.

Can puppies use the park?
Puppies 4 months and older are allowed to use the park if properly vaccinated. Please keep an extra eye on puppies as they are still learning commands and socialization skills.

How many dogs can I bring to the park?
There is a strict limit of three dogs per adult. It is too difficult to watch over, control and clean up after more than three dogs. Got more than three dogs? Bring a friend to help! Professional dog walkers with more than three dogs are expressly prohibited.

What happens if there is an incident that needs reporting in the park?
Please contact the Chicago Police Department at 911 to report any incidents, aggressive dogs, violation of City ordinances or criminal behavior. Chicago Park District Security can be reached at 312.747.2193. The Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control is in charge of enforcing DFA Rules and Regulations and can be reached at 708.974.6140. For non-emergency reports you can also call 311.

Why should I support the dog park 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. A well-exercised dog is a happy dog, and a better neighbor. Many people currently play with their dogs off leash in Chicago parks, tennis courts, and the ADA softball field. Leaving aside that this illegal and one can face stiff fines, it also poses a problem for other park users as well as potential dangers for the off-leash dogs in terms of running into the street, parking lot or the river. Moreover, when the park is crowded there is just no room for off-leash dogs.

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 properly leashed dogs who are also using the park. It is important to be mindful of the fact that not everyone likes dogs; and, indeed, many people are afraid of them. Additionally, while some people may not mind flouting the law and have dogs they can trust to stay out of trouble, some people would appreciate a space where they can do the same activities with their dogs in a law-abiding fashion within the safety of a fenced in arena.

How can I get involved?
If you would like to join the Dog Friendly Area Committee or volunteer to help with one of our events, please contact: info@hornerparkdogpark.org. You can also subscribe to our Newsletter at hornerparkdogpark.org or follow us on Facebook Facebook.com/HornerParkDogPark or on Instagram @doggosofhornerpark. Please remember – we are a 100% volunteer-run committee, we need as many hands as possible to continue the funding for the build out and for the upkeep of the park.

How can I make a donation to the dog park?
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. The Horner Park Advisory Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization so your contribution will be tax deductible. In addition, we run MANY fundraisers throughout the year including the very popular Doggie Egg Hunt, our annual online auction, Howl-o-Ween event and many more. By participating and contributing to these events, your money is going directly to the future build out of the park.

Please be mindful that we are in the middle of a long process. The information provided 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.

Why should I support the dog park?
Dog Parks are also great places for community-building as people from all walks of life come together based on their common interest and love of dogs. They provide a convenient place to meet new people or gather with old friends. And we firmly believe that having more opportunity to connect with people is the best way forward.


12 thoughts on “FAQ

  1. This proposed dog park is a bad idea derived by dog-haters on some glorified power trip. I have been living in the adjacent neighborhood for many years and visit Horner park with my two dogs on a daily basis. The dog owners that frequent Horner are very respectful of the park space, staying out of the way of the ball fields, and generally attend in off-peak hours. What is accomplished by putting up fences and fake grass, besides ruining a perfectly beautiful landscape? And have you visited some of the other dog parks that exist around town? They are poorly maintained, smell horribly, and have become eye-sores. I suggest you go visit the Hamlin Park or River Parks dog areas and envision that for Horner Park.

    Horner Park is a gem, just the way it is– don’t let some doggie bigots masquerading as some flim-flam association tear it up! You have a petition? Well so do I. Let the games begin.

    • Thank you for sharing your opinion.

      All of the Dog Friendly Area Committee members and many of the members of the umbrella association, the Horner Park Advisory Council, are dog owners. I’m sorry that you feel that this project was initiated by dog haters. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

      The Horner Park Advisory Council (HPAC) was founded 25 years ago to advocate, support and raise funds for improvements and programs in Horner Park and four other satellite parks in the neighborhood. Some of the projects HPAC has worked on for example include playground improvements to Ravenswood Manor Park, Horner Park and Jacob’s Playlot; the redesign and renovation of Buffalo Park; the memorial to Officer Ceriale in Horner Park and the current Riverfront Restoration. HPAC sponsors the summer concert series in the parks each year and helps fund neighborhood parties such as Manor Bash and contributes to park events such as the Doggie Egg Hunt. The group holds open meetings the first Monday of each month. You are welcome to join.

      In response to community requests over the years, HPAC conducted a survey in 2011. Receiving positive responses and support from the local Alderman who also had received numerous requests over the years for a dog park in Horner, the Council then went on to initiate the formal process with Chicago Park District (CPD) in 2012 to develop a dog friendly area in Horner Park. The CPD has detailed procedures which include petitioning the neighborhood. The Dog Friendly Area Committee followed the procedures outlined by CPD, including using the petition forms provided by CPD that allow signatories to check “yes” or “no” as to whether they would like a dog park.

      What we hope to accomplish is to provide a pleasant environment where dogs can exercise and socialize legally off-leash while reducing the potential conflict with other park users. While many dog owners are respectful, that is not universally the case. And what we discovered was that many people do not use Horner Park because they are afraid of the dogs or because their dogs become agitated on leash because of off-leash dogs approaching them. The idea behind building a dog park is to provide dog owners who want to run their dogs a place where they can do so legally, without fear of their dog running into harms way, in a place where all of the dogs are vaccinated, and in a way that doesn’t interfere with someone else’s use and enjoyment of the park.

      The original thought was to simply fence in an acre on the southwest side of the park that would mimic the spaces currently used. Skokie, for example, has an all-grass dog park (though we would do a much nicer fence, among other changes). However, the CPD will currently not allow natural grass surfaces and they are concerned about the proposed size. We are working with them to try to reach a resolution. We have indeed visited most of the dog parks in Chicago. And I can assure you that no one is envisioning a River Park or Hamlin Park DFA for Horner. If that is what it comes down to, we won’t support a dog park for Horner either. There are however some very nice dog parks, even if they are not exactly what we had in mind for Horner. See for example, Lake Shore East Dog Park. The new Skinner Park dog park is supposed to be nice, though I haven’t been there yet, and the new Fred Anderson Dog Park that is currently under construction looks promising too. Please know that we are working on persuading the Park District to re-envision what a dog park can be.

      If we can answer any questions, please feel free to email info@hornerparkdogpark.org.

  2. Dog parks are womderful. Sometimes a few people that think the park was built for them make it bad. Selfish and rude people who complain about barking,running,and jumping shouldnt have dogs. If dogs are allowed to be dogs and enjoy a park that is built for dogs and not to please a human then go for.it!!!

  3. I’m just discovering this project and I think it’s a wonderful idea! my two dogs LOVE running off lead in grass but don’t quite have good enough recall to frequent some of the larger dog parks in the suburbs. This would be so close to our home and a perfect place for them. I actually run a blog about my dogs and the work I do with rescue organizations and other dog related organizations. I’m going to email you guys and see if there is any way we can partner to help get this project moving forward any quicker!


  4. The only part I don’t understand is this prohibition on natural grass surfaces for dogs.

    What is the problem with natural grass? Dangerous to the dog’s health?

    If that were true then most of the area’s dogs would be sick and/or dead by now, and no one with a dog would be coming near the park.

    Sorry for being crass (about grass!) but the idea occurs to me that someone could make a lot of money installing and maintaining this ‘safe’ grass.

    I grew up in Chicago, OK? Fighting Forty-Seventh and all of that. I have to consider the possibility that there is a con job going on here.

    • We would love to have grass in the park, too! The Parks District has set this prohibition, their reasoning being (as far as we know) that a natural turf dog park would become a muddy, bacteria-filled pit. We’ve been asking for an exception to this rule based on the larger size of our proposed park, but so far no luck.

      • Their explanation, ‘That a natural turf dog park would become a muddy, bacteria-filled pit.” makes no sense, because if that were true it would be happening now. They ARE lying.

  5. Hello
    I support the idea of The Horner Park: Dog Park, I recall signing a petition many years ago and stated that I would support it if the existing resources were not affected. Where will the existing BBQ spots be relocated? While I read in the FAQ’s that the southwest side is under utilized, I see plenty of families enjoying the spots, baby showers, kids bday parties . etc…. I hope both community resources ( BBQ spots and dog park) can be accommodated and/or relocated. Im interested in supporting this effort, and hope to attend a meeting next month.

  6. Hi Nancy. Thanks so much for your support! There is one picnic grove on the DFA site. We checked with the park supervisor after receiving your concern and here is what she said, “We have not been permitting that area at all. We have only been permitting groves 1,2 and 8. And to be honest we do not fill up those three groves. We offer plenty of groves based on the need of the community. Hope that this helps!” We generally meet the last Tuesday of each month. Our next meeting is May 29th at 7 p.m. at the field house. Please do join us!

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