Evanston City Council discusses potential dog park locations and concerns
Council members and residents discussed the concerns and benefits of a proposed dog park in Evanston at Monday’s city council meeting.
After rising Lake Michigan waters submerged the fenced-in Evanston dog beach in 2016, some members of the community pushed for a new space dedicated to dogs. Residents of Evanston have access to the 2.7-acre Pooch Park, jointly managed by Evanston and the District of Skokie Park. corn City engineer Lara Biggs said many residents found her location inaccessible.
“People would like a centrally located dog park that is easy to walk, bike, in a different location than the existing park,” Biggs said.
When city staff identified potential park locations, they avoided sites within a mile of Pooch Park to expand residents’ access, Biggs said.
Biggs said city staff narrowed down potential locations to three preferred sites: Clark Square Park, Lovelace Park and Ingraham Park. The sites were chosen based on a variety of criteria, including the availability and size of the parking lot, with at least 0.5 acres for the dogs to roam.
The results of the city staff survey – which received more than 1,800 responses – showed Clark Square had 49% community support, Lovelace Park 37% support and Ingraham Park 35% support, Biggs reported. . However, neighbors of potential locations have expressed concerns about life next to a dog park.
Biggs said this was the result of various community concerns over noise, odors, limited parking and animal waste. For potential sites in the Historic Lakeshore District, she said residents feared a dog park would disrupt the surrounding character.
Rachel Hayman, resident of the 3rd district, spoke out against the negative reactions of the district, calling on the council to consider the dog park as a “problem of equity”.
“The objections voiced by the neighbors really boiled down to a privileged no-in my front yard attitude,” said Hayman. “Owners along the lake don’t own the lakefront … A well-designed dog park with attractive fencing won’t ‘ruin the lakefront’.
Longtime 4th Ward resident Sari Kadison-Shapiro said Evanston didn’t need another dog beach given the city’s access to Pooch Park. In particular, Kadison-Shapiro said Clark Square Beach was an inappropriate location for a dog park due to its proximity to the lake.
“I would never go there because my dog would want to swim so badly that he would jump over the rocks into the water if he could,” Kadison-Shapiro said.
Beyond geographic location, to operate an off-leash dog area, the city must meet several legal requirements, including a fully fenced area separate from the park’s outdoor activities, Biggs said.
Clark Square Beach could meet these requirements given its available space.
But Ald. Melissa A. Wynne (3rd) said that neighborhood residents she spoke to were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea, as it already serves various community functions.
“This park is one of the few open spaces along the lake,” Ald said. Wynne said, citing many activities held in the park, including tai chi and yoga classes.
Responding to Wynne’s concern for the necessary space in the dog park, Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) said the park could continue to host community events while having a dedicated area for dog owners.
“It looks like the park could be fenced like you described for the dog park and still have some green space,” Ald. Fleming said, addressing Biggs. “I can understand why people would want to leave it open and have other uses for it. However, not everyone can afford to live near the beach… We have to think about using the space by the lake for everyone.
Council members also discussed the possibility of suing Lincoln Street Beach, but Biggs said setting up a dog park there could present “logistical barriers” given the ongoing dispute between Northwestern and the city over ownership. According to her, the beach actually belongs to the state of Illinois, not the university or the city.
Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) suggested negotiating with NU on how to share the space. According to her, it might look like allowing dogs during the off-season at the beach, such as in parts of spring or fall.
Although development plans remain uncertain, community responses and ideas from council members indicate some support for the creation of the dog park.
During the public comments, Hayman stressed the importance of dedicating space for dog socialization to keep communities safe.
“They need space to run and play with other dogs. If they are deprived of it, they can develop aggressive anti-social behavior, ”said Hayman. “Evanston’s dogs and their owners deserve better. “
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