As dog parks continue to pop up across the Chicago area, a handful of Oak Forest residents are looking to give their city a 'dog-meet-dog' makeover of its own.
After a short field trip Saturday morning to a newly proposed dog park location, a two-acre field on 158th Street just east of Central Avenue, 15 dog owners from Oak Forest were buzzing with design ideas, including entrance gates with pens, fencing, benches and an agility course made from recycled materials.
“It would be a great amenity for the city,” said resident Erin Martinez, who owns two dogs. “I'm at the point where, next year, I'm going to be getting a new dog. There's nothing like dog parks.”
One 10-year-old girl from Oak Forest, Annais Gangolf, couldn't be happier for her dog.
“I just want to get out and see Petey run,” Gangolf said with a smile. “She likes other dogs.”
As residents see it, the new location is hardly as far-fetched as it was nearly two months ago. In late June, Ald. Laura Clemons (1st Ward), who's spearheading the project, was met with backlash from residents when she proposed that the dog park be built at the corner of 165th Street and Knottingwood Avenue, near the Oak Forest Hospital.
“Those two pieces [of land] are available,” Clemons said of the first and second proposed sites. “There are pros and cons to each. There's not been a final decision, but the first location is 99 percent ruled out.”
If built, the dog park at 158th Street and Central Avenue will have a fence running from a gated, north entrance, which borders a public skate park, to a gated south entrance, which borders the back entrance of Food 4 Less grocery. At a meeting in late July, Clemons said the dog park will cost roughly $10,000 in seed money to start up; and that's if it's to become a premium dog park, with benches, doggy bag stations and a water fountain or two.
Directly to the west of the hilly land parcel is a detention pond that collects water from a large concrete drain. Clemons assured the group that that area, along with any smaller drains, will be fenced off.
After surveying the field, Clemons led group members to Oak Lawn's dog park, which opened in early May. Unlike the proposed location in Oak Forest, Oak Lawn's dog park has an abundance of shade, which residents said they'd like to see in Oak Forest's dog park.
“It's beautiful,” Clemons said of Oak Lawn's dog park. “I think the water stations and pet waste stations are great. The double-gate thing is necessary.”
A Creek 'Runs Through It'
What's the biggest concern dog owners had?
For resident Cheri Mills, who owns two dogs, it's the creek that runs through most of the park like a grassy spine, collecting rainwater and providing a home for small fish.
“I don't like the creek,” Cheri chimed. “If my dog got down there, I can't get in all that gunk to get him out. They should put up a fence around it.”
Though she likes the first site better, Mills added, she doesn't like “the drama” that comes with it. The field is good enough.
“I'm not negative on it,” she stressed of the field. “That's just my reservation.”
Resident Pete McCutcheon, who owns one dog, said the creek doesn't pose a problem.
“What's key is that it's running water,” McCutcheon said of the creek. “If it just sat there, they wouldn't drink it. It's stagnant, it smells bad. Dogs are smart enough not to drink it."
After picking coordinators, Clemons scheduled the following dog park fundraising events for the Fall.
Saturday, Sept. 10
Dog Walk Day
Where: Oak Forest Firehouse 1, 155th Street and Central Avenue
When: Fundraiser starts at 10 a.m., until 2 p.m.
Price: $5 for dog wash; $5 for dog nail clipping
Event: Oak Forest Dog Walk Day
Saturday, Oct. 8
Where: Oak Forest High School, 15201 S. Central Ave.
When: Fundraiser starts at 10 a.m., until 3 p.m.
Program: Community Day Expo for Oak Forest businesses
Wednesday, Nov. 2
Pasta for Pups
Where: Oak Forest Community Center, 155th Street and Kilpatrick Avenue
When: Fundraiser starts at 5 p.m., until 8 p.m.
Price: Tickets are $10 per person
Program: Pasta for Pups, an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner for attendees