From left, dog park advisory council officers Angie Robertson, Adriana Kenning, Min Huang and Carina Trudell stand together after the group's Monday, January 7, meeting.

Dog Park Coming to McKinley Park in 2019

Published January 8, 2019

McKinley Park is getting a designated dog-friendly area in 2019 after a long campaign by local dog park advocates and the Chicago City Council's approval of $400,000 in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to fund the park. At the January 7 meeting of the McKinley Dog Park Advisory Council, officers revealed the dog park's build-out plans for 2019 and shared their excitement about this project finally coming to fruition.

"I think I'm still in shock," said advisory council Co-President Carina Trudell. "I’m thrilled by City Council’s decision to back our four years of work."

The officially designated dog-friendly area will comprise a fenced and gated plot around 12,000 square feet in size in the southwest corner of McKinley Park, adjacent to the outdoor swimming pool decks and southwest of the field house. Dog park features will include separate areas for large and small dogs, a dog drinking fountain, varied dog-friendly ground surfaces, and new landscaping, including new trees and benches.

Although timing is dependent on the weather, dog park construction should begin this spring, with completion in summer 2019, said advisory council Co-President Angie Robertson. Some final park design elements are being tweaked with the participation of the advisory council, and the Chicago Park District will then put the project out for bidding through their official process, Robertson said.

Key support for the dog park came from both 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas and 11th Ward Alderman Patrick D. Thompson, who cooperatively supported use of funds from Chicago's Archer/Western TIF District, which stretches across both wards. This money was approved for use by the City Council on November 14, Robertson said.

The all-volunteer effort to bring a dog park to the area began in 2014, Robertson said, with initial unsuccessful outreach to the Chicago Park District. The dog park volunteers began working though the McKinley Park Advisory Council as a subcommittee and reaching out to the community through events like the seasonal McKinley Park Farmers Market.

In the summer of 2016, the dog park committee connected with the 12th Ward office, which had separately begun its own investigations into the community benefits of dog parks, Robertson said. In September 2016, the park department sent the committee a letter stating they had reconsidered placing a dog park in McKinley Park, and in the spring of 2018, Cardenas indicated his willingness to employ TIF funds toward park construction, Robertson said.

In the summer of 2018, the dog park advisory council branched off from the McKinley Park Advisory Council to become its own organization. The dog park advisory council's fiscal sponsor is now the Chicago Parks Foundation, Robertson said.

Although funding for dog park construction is complete, the dog park advisory council will be entirely responsible for the costs of ongoing materials for the dog park, and the labor required to maintain and manage the dog park, Robertson said. At the January 7 meeting, council officers discussed ways to engage local dog owners in helping to maintain the park, and establishing an annual budget for the project. The group has already raised thousands of dollars through various fund-raisers, Robertson said.

"I'm so proud of the hard work of this group," Robertson said. "It has been a long process and we've faced a lot of hurdles, but this just shows what can happen when neighbors come together and work hard for change in their community."

The next McKinley Dog Park Advisory Council meeting is at 7 p.m. on April 1, 2018, at the McKinley Park field house, 2210 W. Pershing Road, Chicago. All community members are welcome to attend and discover how they can become involved in McKinley Park's new dog park, Robertson said.


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