With the Dog Beach closed, officials are looking for a site for a second dog park in Evanston. (RoundTable photo)

Evanston’s recent municipal election may have received a rather tepid response, but in another area, there is no lack of interest in the winner of a contested process.

More than 100 people were signed on to the virtual broadcast the City held May 5 to discuss progress on the selection of a site for Evanston’s second dog park.

And that did not include a number of dogs barking in the background as their owners weighed in on the selection process.

With the City’s lakefront dog beach, adjacent to the Church Street  boat ramp and largely under water, officials are currently down to one dog park – Pooch Park, jointly operated by the City of Evanston and Skokie Park District on Oakton Street just east of McCormick Boulevard – and looking for a second.

At the meeting, Stefanie Levine, the City’s Senior Project manager, showed a map of the Pooch Park site with a one-mile radius drawn around it.

“We’re trying to get the second site outside of this radius,” she said.

Dog owners did their part to provide direction, she said, submitting more than 1,800 responses to the City’s electronic survey in March asking where they would like to see Evanston’s next dog park.

Burnham Shores/Eliot Park, Dawes Park, Centennial Park, and Clark Square were in the top group receiving support.

Lovelace Park, Twiggs Park, Ingraham Park and Beck Park were in the group receiving 30% and greater support.

Based on the input received and further analysis, officials whittled down the list to three locations to be considered at the May 5 meeting: Clark Square, located at Kedzie Street and Sheridan Road just off the lake in southeast Evanston; Ingraham Park, behind the Civic Center, at Asbury Avenue and Leonard Place, closer to the center of the City; and Lovelace Park, at Gross Point Road and Thayer Street, at the City’s northwest end.

In addition to the one-mile distance from Pooch Park requirement, City officials are looking for a site that has more than half an acre of open space, part of it shaded, is buffered from adjacent residences, and has off-street parking.

During the public comment portion of the May 5 meeting, some residents in the Ingraham Park, Lovelace Park, and Clark Square neighborhoods brought out concerns about traffic and other issues and argued a dog park would make better sense at another site.

… But Not at Clark Square on the Lake

“Dog parks generally are laudable goals, I’m the owner of two dogs myself,” began one man. “But I think there’s very compelling reasons why Clark Square’s just not an appropriate place to have a dog park.”

Dog parks are “a relatively new phenomenon – historically, dog parks haven’t been considered or even necessary parts of civic infrastructure,” he said. “So I think we’re taking things a bit to the extreme when we’re talking about dropping a dog park into this pristine historic lakefront property.

“I think there’s a much better place than smack dab in the middle of a beautiful lakefront,” he said.

Another speaker, Louis Head, did not support Clark Square as a dog-park site. “The traffic would just increase,” he said. “The whole area would just be overrun.”

He said he was in favor of having multiple parks across the City provide sites for dogs. In doing that, instead “of lots of dogs concentrating in one area, the dogs would get to know each other in other areas of the City,” he said, “and there will be less confrontation and less concentration of dogs in one area.”

Andrea Liss, a dog owner and 39-year resident of southeast Evanston,  said she is in favor of a second dog park “but I feel very strongly that it should not interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of residential neighborhoods, and that includes Clark [Square]  Park and all the other parks up along the lake.

“I love dogs and I love walking and I love Evanston,” she said, “but I think it’s a disservice to all Evanstonians to have our lakefront property utilized for that purpose.”

… And Not at Often-Muddy Lovelace or Twiggs parks

Sigrid Pilgrim concentrated her remarks on Lovelace Park. “Number one, [Lovelace] is relatively close to people whose homes are actually adjoining the area,” she said. “So having lots of dogs – in the evening when you have your living room or bedroom window open, or you’re sitting in your terrace – is not necessarily something that those neighbors are looking forward to.”

She also spoke about muddy conditions in the park after heavy rains “where you can see lots of ducks swimming around. So I’m not sure how well the owners would be loving to have their dogs running through.”

Also, with the park literally a stone’s throw away from Wilmette, it will probably attract more people from those municipalities than Evanston residents, she said.

She suggested Twiggs Park,  at Dodge Avenue and Simpson Street, as a possibility, “because we’ve already got the precedent, using [Metropolitan Water Reclamation District] land [at Pooch Park] for a dog park.”

But Jeff Masters, another dog owner, said that while he likes Twiggs, after rains “when it’s wet, you can’t be there, because dogs tear up whatever is there, make it a mud pit.”

He also suggested to City officials the need for “a place where we can be sociable a little bit, places that are dog-friendly.”

… Nor at Residential-Bordered Ingraham Park

Another speaker, who identified herself as “Ann,” reluctantly said she had to put a damper on Ingraham. “I know several people have mentioned that the parking is good and it’s not near [as in Clark Square] Sheridan, a busy street. But it’s right in the middle of a residential area that encloses three sides of that park. It’s also a small park but it is well used in the weekends – a lot of soccer games, picnics, volleyball. There’s not a lot of park district in that area. You’re not close to the lake. You’re taking away some limited park area.”

Next Steps

Officials are expected to hold at least one more public hearing before making a recommendation on the issue. The City has budgeted $110,000 in the Capital Improvement Plan to construct a second dog park, officials said.

Once a site is selected, the City would develop a conceptual design and prepare construction documents this summer, they said.

Construction could then take place in the fall.

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.