A planned dog area on the south end of Horner Park would be one of Chicago’s largest, but whether or not it will ever be completed is an open question, say leaders of the Horner Park Advisory Council.
“We’re so early in the process,” said advisory council dog park committee chair Erica Beuter, “There’s a lot we have to do.”
About thirty people attended the joint meeting of the 33rd Ward and the Horner Park Advisory Councils in a basement meeting room of the Horner Park field house to hear details on the proposed dog park.
The proposed fenced dog park, would be 1.89 acres and be covered with a special permeable artificial turf designed for dog use would be sited on the south end of Horner Park, aligned along Irving Park Rd. However, Park District guidelines for a new dog park require a one-year usage survey of the area and the District has not allocated any funding for the park’s expected $300,000 cost, meaning the park will likely be entirely funded by private donations.
Jaime Andretta, a staffer from Ald. Dick Mell’s (33rd) office says that while the Alderman supports the concept, there just is no public funding available. “This project is going to be 99.99 percent community driven and funded.”
However, the park’s fortunes may change over time, as a representative from Ald. Ameya Pawar’s (47th) office was at the meeting, and the park’s advisory council president, Peter Schlossman, says a community survey conducted last year showed, “over 90% support for the dog area.”
As the meeting progressed, community members present expressed concern that the creation of a dog area would restrict local dog owners from letting their dogs run unleashed in the larger park area. By law, dogs must be leashed at all times in parks, but Horner Park has an unwritten tradition of allowing the practice.
“Once you create this god park, you’re saying, this is where the dogs are supposed to go,” said one man.
Meeting attendees groused that other parks to the east, like Wrightwood and Hamlin Parks, have been “yuppified” with dog areas that do not allow dog owners and their pets to really enjoy the area unleashed.
Advisory council leaders countered with the fact that Roscoe Village’s Hamlin Park dog area is a mere 0.16 acres, less than a tenth of what Horner Park’s dog area would be. The Horner Park dog area would plenty of room for dogs to run and play catch.
Park District guidelines limit dog areas to be no larger than 3.5% of the total park area. Horner Park is 54 acres, one of Chicago’s largest grass parks.
Once the park advisory council decides to move forward with the dog area, it must conduct a one-year usage survey of the proposed area to ensure no vital uses would be displaced. Following this, the Park District will notify all residents within five blocks of the park of planned changes and allow for public comment. Then, with Park District approval, official planning can begin and the group can fundraise in earnest. Once the group has raised 75% of the necessary funds, the Park District will schedule construction.