Editor’s note: This is one of multiple stories from the Oct. 10 City Council meeting.

Evanston’s pooch-friendly shorefront will host dogs and their owners at least until early December, City Council members agreed at their Oct. 10 meeting.

The stretch of Evanston shorefront dedicated for the dog beach is seen in an Oct. 8 city photo. Credit: City of Evanston

Standing at the lectern before the council, Deputy City Manager David Stoneback asked for direction: what to do for the remainder of the fall and what to do in 2023.

In a memo to council, Stoneback wrote that the City Code “designates the area south of the Clark Street breakwater, north of the Church Street boat ramp, and the adjacent sandy area, as a dog beach.” The same section of the City Code describes regulations of the beach and allows the City Manager to open or close the dog beach.

“This dog beach site was closed in 2016 due to the rising lake level that caused the beach to disappear. The dog beach was temporarily relocated south of the Church Street boat ramp for the 2017 season but had to be closed again for the 2018 season,” the memo continued.

A sandy portion of shorefront is again available for a dog beach, but the entrance is not in great shape, as storms during the period of high lake levels destroyed the access. The dog beach is not ADA accessible, and the beach itself is unregulated, Stoneback said.

If City Council wants to “turn a blind eye” to a Cook County ordinance requiring proof of vaccinations for dogs on the beach, then staff would leave the gate open to the beach, Stoneback said. At the direction of the council, staff could create a temporary safe access path to the dog beach to allow it to be reopened for the remainder of the 2022 season until closing the beach on Dec. 5, he said.

“It will be use-at-your-own-risk,” he said, with signs stating “Use Dog Beach At Your Own Risk” installed at the gate to the dog beach.

Council Member Devon Reid, 8th Ward, asked how a Cook County ordinance could preempt Evanston’s home rule powers. Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings said the state Animal Control Act delegates the administration to the county. “We can’t do anything in conflict with what the administration of the Cook County Board promulgates,” he said.

Council members seemed eager to have the dog beach opened and suggested that enforcing the ordinance be a low priority.

Jonathan Nieuwsma, Fourth Ward Council member, said, “I add my support to the dog beach … de-emphasizing enforcement.”

Council member Clare Kelly, 1st Ward, said, “I also support getting the beach open as soon as possible in a sort of laissez-faire way, at your own risk.”

Dog beach 2023

Noting the impact on the upcoming budget, Stoneback said staff recommends that the city enforce all the regulations of the dog beach in 2023, including a mandate that owners buy a season pass, which would require showing proof that a dog is registered, in good health and vaccinated. While the season passes will garner some revenue, capital expenditures could be significant.

The entrance area at the Evanston dog beach is currently in a state of disrepair. Credit: City of Evanston

“Staff would develop a system of periodic surveillance to monitor compliance with the dog beach regulations outlined in the City Code. In order to meet requirements
and comply with Cook County’s Animal and Rabies Control Ordinance, staff also recommends that in 2023 the entrance to the dog beach be designed in such a manner as to secure against accidental opening (double gate system) with signs stating all dog beach regulations,” Stoneback’s memo said.

The final issue the memo dealt with was constructing an accessible path from the gated area to the dog beach, which could be either a simple gravel path or a more
permanent one complying with ADA requirements, which would likely require hiring a consultant.

“We will come back with a cost proposal for that, with seeking approval from the City Council to hire that consultant,” Stoneback said. “I understand this is not your approval right now. I just want to direction so we don’t waste our time getting to quote. … So, thank you for your time. I appreciate the direction.”

That said, however, the discussion was not over.

Seventh Ward Council member Eleanor Revelle said, “I do support opening the dog beach 2022. … We certainly, if we’re going to be building a ramp, [need] to make it ADA compliant, so we definitely want to hear what the consultant has to say.”

Krissie Harris, newly appointed as council member for the Second Ward, said, “So, I, too, am in support. And I just have got to agree with Council member Revelle. We don’t have staff members that can make that assessment.”

Stoneback agreed, “We don’t have any structural engineers on staff, and we don’t have the equipment to do soil borings. So when you construct a concrete ramp, you’re going to have to put in the piers in to be able to create the slope that you need. How deep do you have to sink those piers? What is the soil that you’re gonna sink those piers into? Those are questions that staff is unable to do on our own. And that’s why we would seek the assistance of consultants. So that’s what we want to implement in ’23. And I know at least one speaker in public comment indicated that they want the city to make sure that the other dogs are vaccinated and … safe.”

Mayor Daniel Biss had the last word: “I guess just in the spirit of weighing in, I’ll say that my view on this, I think, was well captured by a public comment participant who asked us to be the ‘city of Yes.’ I think that’s an attitude that would serve us well, in this and other contexts.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...

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  1. As a longtime Evanston resident of 38 years, and a dog beach goer for as long as the beach was opened, I couldn’t disagree more. I won’t take my dogs there unless I know that all others have a valid rabies shot. It’s irresponsible for the council to agree to turning a blind eye to a Cook County ordinance requiring proof of vaccinations for dogs on the beach.
    What ever happened to the city hosting ‘dog park’ Zoom meetings, which I participated. I do know that most people involved in those meetings did want the dog beach reopened.
    I say, ‘do it’, but ‘do it right’ and reopen the dog beach in 2023 with the proper season pass, which would require showing proof that a dog is registered, in good health and vaccinated.

  2. Evanston can be the city of “yes”….. as in yes, “includ(e) a mandate that owners buy a season pass, which would require showing proof that a dog is registered, in good health and vaccinated.” Even as a dog-grandparent, and taxpayer, I don’t agree with an ADA consultant and other capital expenditures for a dog beach.

  3. It would be very good if the people who actually used and are planning to use the dog beach were consulted! The entrance to the dog beach belongs at the south end of it, adjacent to the approach to the pier.
    When it was moved to the north end near Clark St. it was dangerously close to the gate where cars enter that are towing boats. It was nice that they installed a hose for hosing down the dogs, but it was also too close to the road. IF the entrance remains where it should be (and had always been in the past), someone in a wheelchair could be on the approach to the pier and watch the dogs from there. Maybe consult dog owners who are in the handicapped community about how and if they would use the dog beach. I know that handicapped people who like to swim have complained about the “ADA compliant” plastic walkways that stop well before the shoreline. In the past, no one was allowed to swim *with* their dogs at the dog beach. Maybe Dave Stoneback should visit the very laid-back-compared-to-Evanston, Wilmette dog beach, where they *don’t* have a 10 foot high sign listing
    twenty-three rules!

  4. The “City of Yes!” Oh my gosh, I love this!! Thank you, Mayor Biss and the City Council. Dog people will be thrilled, as will their dogs.
    As for ADA compliance in coming years: As we well know, it makes little sense to try and create permanent structures along the shoreline, as the lake can and does tend to destroy them. I urge the city to use the type of temporary walkways it employs at other public beaches and avoid the huge expense of added infrastructure beyond a gate system. It would be a shame to decline to maintain a dog beach due to the unworkability of making it fully ADA compliant.