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$25K Richer, Dog Park Committee Eyes More Fundraising Efforts

Oak Forest's dog park committee chair said it's possible the park could open by mid-Fall.

With Oak Forest's recent 2nd place finish in a national dog park contest, committee organizers aren't in much rush to spend the $25,000 won and, instead, are looking ahead to more fundraisers.

The committee has until August 2015 to spend the money Oak Forest won by taking 2nd place in the Bark for your Park contest, organized by pet product producer PetSafe. Laura Clemons, chair of the city's Bark for a Park committee, said they don't have any definitive plans for the money and do plan to continue ongoing fundraising efforts.

"It’s hard to tell right now what we’ll spend our money on because we don’t know," Clemons said.

The contest winners were announced Friday. The dog park committee is hoping to capitalize on the momentum from the 2nd-place finish to gather more interest in their effort.

Another open meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at the . The meeting will include decision of potential future fundraisers.

The next proposed fundraiser is a dog and owner pub crawl, Clemons said.

Friday's win, and the efforts over three months by the committee to get out the vote, has brought the organization much more exposure and granted it a more established presence in the community.

“We’re not going to rest on our laurels, though," Clemons said.

Oak Forest has submitted a draft "memorandum of understanding" to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County for the use of about seven acres of land near 160th and Oak Park Avenue. The agreement would make Oak Forest responsibility for being stewards of the dog park.

Clemons said it's feasible that dog owners could use the park by mid-Fall. The agreement still needs to go through the District's approval process before anything is finalized.

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Want more dog park news?

Amanda A August 09, 2012 at 12:58 PM
How much total is needed for the dog park that is planned?
Mary Olson August 09, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Congrats Oak Forest on getting 2nd place!!!! That's a great start and looking forward to the dog and owner pub crawl!
Laura Clemons August 09, 2012 at 02:28 PM
HI Amanda! There really is no set number. As expenses to maintain the park will be ongoing, we will continue to fundraise to cover these costs. Also, if in the future improvements or enhancements are to be made, we will have the funds available for those expenses as well.
Jen August 09, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Why, if Oak Forest residents voted for a dog park to come to their town, would they plan putting a dog park over in Tinley?
Laura Clemons August 09, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Jen - The City of Oak Forest is landlocked by Forest Preserve Property, and has a very limited amount of open space. While scouting potential locations for a dog park, we opened up communication with the FPD to see if there was an interest in working together to bring a dog friendly park to our area. The 159th and Oak Park location was chosen as the best location with 7-acres of underutilized property available. This is much more than the city could offer for a park. As always, if anyone has any questions regarding this effort, feel free to call me at anytime - or stop in on one of our open meetings - next one is scheduled for August 27th. We'd love to have you!
Jerry Wilhelm August 09, 2012 at 05:10 PM
I would think expenses to maintain the park would be paid by the purchase of tags/licenses for those using the park. This is the way it is handled in other dog parks that are part of forest preserve districts. As for start up costs, wasn't the original proposed cost $10,000? At the $33,000 you now have it seems that you should have enough to toss in a few upgrades for the poochies....i.e. doggie drinking fountain? or a small obstacle course?
Laura Clemons August 09, 2012 at 05:23 PM
When we started this project in September of 2011, we received an estimate of $8,500 for fencing a 1 1/2-acre piece of property - one of the city lots discussed in my post above. That is how we gave ourselves a goal of raising $10,000 within one year. We have met and have exceeded that goal, as well as have evolved into a larger project with a larger piece of property as part of an inter-governmental agreement that is being finalized.
Michael M. August 09, 2012 at 06:24 PM
According to the rules of the contest, we can not charge a fee for use of the park. http://www.petsafe.net/barkforyourpark/contest-rules/. Here is the specific rule. (vi) make the dog park available for use by the general public at no charge, subject to reasonable rules and regulations concerning such use.
Michael M. August 09, 2012 at 06:26 PM
I am concerned that the tax payers of OF will become responsible for this dog park. There should be an assurance that the tax dollars or any OF city program will not be used now or ever for any part of the park.
Jerry Wilhelm August 10, 2012 at 12:28 PM
MIchael....wow I missed that fine print :( I can't imagine why the FPD would want to get involved with a NFP venture with no future income other than fund raising. This also seems to mean that people from ANYWHERE will be allowed to use the park without restriction. It almost seems as if winning the $ was not the greatest thing in the world....bummer.
Matt Aggen August 10, 2012 at 03:07 PM
It's definitely not a bummer. Why would FPD care if this land generates income? Forest preserves are free; they don't generate any income from fees or any of that sort. They are also for everyone regardless of where they come from. I think this dog park fits that philosophy. When voting was going on, residents of Orland Park jumped ship to vote for Oak Forest and quite a few are planning on coming to enjoy the park when it opens. I think this is a great thing when we can share this with the community around us.
Matt Aggen August 10, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Full disclosure: I own a dog and so I have a vested interest in seeing this come to fruition. As a OF resident, it wouldn't bother me if we, as a city, become responsible for some of the maintenance. After all, that's what we do with our parks and recreation centers. I don't use our parks that much, but I understand the importance of it for families in our community and so I am glad to support it with my taxes. The same goes for our schools, which since I don't have any children, I also support. I also haven't had a need for OFPD or the Fire Department, but it's nice to have them on hand if I do. Our overriding concern should be to garner well-to-do businesses that do well and bring in more money to help sustain Oak Forest and allow it to compete with our neighboring communities. With that increased income, Oak Forest can thrive rather than just survive. We can have a great community that caters to everybody and their own needs.
Jerry Wilhelm August 10, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Because Cook County is in financial shambles and is looking to make a $ or break even any way it can! Not everything in forest preserves needs to be free. Dupage County sells licenses for its off leash dog park and keeps it very well maintained. Licenses are cheap for Dupage residents and a bit more for non-residents. The original plan was to have this be a members dog park, financed by members, with members having control over who used it. I wish you good luck with maintaining an off leash dog park with no fees or restrictions.
Laura Clemons August 10, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Happy Friday everyone! This is an ever evolving project - and because of that, every single detail, requirement, rule or regulation has not yet been finalized. Stay tuned - consider attending our open meetings and keep reading Patch for progress updates every step of the way.
LISA HINES August 10, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Hmmmm...Matt... not sure how far off the ship Orland Park jumped for us in the voting, since on August 7, 2012 the Village and the Township announced they had joined forces to open their own 3-acre dog park by Centennial. They have been planning it for 2 or 3 years I think, with the cost of the FIRST PHASE being set at $200,000. Just an observation.
Michael M. August 10, 2012 at 06:03 PM
The issue is that the park was advertised to the public as a no cost park to the city and taxpayers. You can't tell residents that it will cost the taxpayers nothing and then change it. That would be dishonest and a bait and switch. Surely Matt, you do not support doing that?
Michael M. August 10, 2012 at 06:16 PM
We are not talking about generating income, we are talking about funds to maintain the park. One way or another it is going to cost the taxpayers. If the county has to do any work then we are paying since we pay county taxes. The issue is that this was sold to the public as NO COST to the taxpayers, so it should remain that way. If you charge a fee you are breaking the rules of the contest, if you use tax dollars then they are violating their own word; for once, we should honor our word.
Michael M. August 10, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Laura, you do know that you can not charge people for using the park? It is in the contest rules. I believe the committee also stated that tax dollars will not be used. So what is evolving? Certainly, you will not violate your word. I remind you of your previous post on The Patch article http://oakforest.patch.com/articles/oak-forest-residents-ok-dog-park-as-new-pet-project Laura Clemons 10:55 am on Friday, July 29, 2011 "We have made mention of the fact at every meeting that this project would be 100% funded and maintained by the fundraising efforts of the volunteers, along with corporate donations and grants, in addition to the membership fees collected. No taxpayer funds will be used for this project."
Bobby Budnick August 12, 2012 at 10:03 PM
This IS Oak Forest after all....
Sue1 August 12, 2012 at 10:22 PM
I'm confused now. Right now it is public land, being FPD property, but if it becomes the dog park, you have to be a member to use it? Who is going to police that?

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