Welcome Friends and Neighbors!
In response to requests over the years for a neighborhood dog park, the Horner Park Advisory Council formed a Dog Friendly Area Committee (the “DFAC”) to explore the idea of building a dog park in Horner Park. 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 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. The DFAC is also honored to have the support of both Alderman Deb Mell and Alderman Ameya Pawar.
What are the next steps?
The Chicago Park District has 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. The DFAC is grateful for the support of Christy Webber Landscapes and its design team who are currently helping us develop concept drawings to submit to the Park District for approval. Once the concept is approved, an estimate will be generated and the DFAC will need to raise the remaining funds. From there, construction drawings and permits will have to be obtained before any work can begin.
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. Please note that the currently fenced off area on the southeast portion is not the proposed DFA; rather, it the Oak Savanna developed as part of the Army Corp of Engineers River Restoration Project that will open next year. The proposed dog park, which would include both a small dog and large dog area, is adjacent to the Oak Savanna, and would be fully fenced and partially surfaced with canine grass, a lead-free artificial turf designed for dogs, among other surface materials. 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. Unfortunately, however, the Park District does not allow for a natural grass surface. 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, 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 Chicago Park District estimate for the development of a DFA is $250,000. 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 by applying for grants and holding fundraisers. To date, approximately $115,000 has been raised.
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 $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 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 DFA?
The DFAC will have ongoing responsibilities to assist in the maintenance and cleanup of the DFA. Dog owners are still responsible for picking up after their pets within 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. 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 or parking lot. Moreover, when the park is crowded there is no room for off-leash dogs, and when the riverfront project is completed, the fence will come down leaving open access to the river, which creates another danger 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 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: DFAC@hornerpark.org. You can also subscribe to our Newsletter at hornerparkdogpark.org or follow us on Facebook Facebook.com/HornerParkDogPark or on Instagram at doggosofhornerpark.
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. 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 middle 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.