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'Leading the Pack': Oak Forest Alderman Takes Supporters on Dog Park Field Trip

Dog owners came out to survey two acres for a newly proposed Oak Forest dog park. What they saw, they liked—with a couple of concerns.

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.

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“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 , 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 , 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."

Fall Fundraising

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

Community Expo
Where: Oak Forest High School, 15201 S. Central Ave.
When: Fundraiser starts at 10 a.m., until 3 p.m.
Price: Free
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

Lauren Jany Eident August 14, 2011 at 02:26 PM
Thank God the dog park is not in the first proposed area,,who wants it in there backyard? NOT US! For those who want it there,,,have it in yours and then see how u feel! And i hope our tax money is not going to fund this bulls**t!
Pete McCutcheon August 14, 2011 at 04:01 PM
That person above is just a big bummer and don't worry, your tax dollars will be free to waste on other mostly unneccessary things. I like the idea, I support the idea. The fact of the matter is there are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs in the United States. Thirty-nine percent of U.S. households own at least one dog. Most owners (60 percent) own one dog. Twenty-eight percent of owners own two dogs and Oak Forest is no exception. As far as a dog park in my backyard? No problems there, I love dogs and it's a good idea, not BS as some might think.
Scott Johansen August 14, 2011 at 05:43 PM
While I think it's great to have a dog park I think the city should concentrate on problems that also affect our pets like the feral cats and skunks in the area. My dogs have been sprayed 5 times in the last year. Skunks are big carriers of rabies and have become less afraid of people. You also cannot even sit on your deck in the evening because somewhere on the block a skunk has sprayed. People feeding feral cats are a part of this problem as well because of the fact that they leave food out all night for the cats. Cats are not the only critter eating the food. This brings the skunks closer to our homes. When the skunks are eating food by artificial means such as cat food it changes the natural balance creating a problem. Let's take care of problems before we spend money on dog parks.
Chester A. Arthur August 14, 2011 at 08:12 PM
I also think that its a great idea. Oak Lawn's is so nice. We should have a place of our own to play in.
Robin Randall August 15, 2011 at 02:19 PM
It was a great day, thanks to Alderman Clemons for organizing. Having lived previously in a community that had several dog parks and a dog beach, which was very popular, I would love to see this amenity added in Oak Forest. As it stands, supporters are raising their own funds to ready the space, but I would love to see Park District support for it. It would be a more successful venture with that support. Other communities' dog parks are part of the park district. Seeing Oak Lawn's dog park, shows me how it can be done successfully. The results are that people come together and meet each other in a very positive, inexpensive, family friendly setting that can become a daily habit for the community. And, socialized dogs are less likely to be aggressive towards people. Please come out to the fundraisers if you are interested in supporting the dog park!
Sue1 August 15, 2011 at 11:02 PM
Is this the same spot they set off the fireworks from?

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