Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the correct citation of Trisha Connolly and the correct name of Lauren Rochman’s dog, which is Riley.

Dogs play on Evanston’s dog beach Saturday, Oct. 15. It was the official reopening of the off-leash area, which had been closed since 2018. Credit: Wendi Kromash

Who let the dogs out? 

As dog-themed music played from a speaker on Saturday, Mary Rosinski, one of the people working with the city to get the dog beach reopened, said she was nervous that there wouldn’t be a large crowd for the official reopening, especially since the announcement went out just a few days earlier.

But when she arrived shortly before 10 a.m., she said, “it was almost like Field of Dreams. People started walking towards the beach with their dogs. It was great. Within the first 20 minutes, I counted 40 dogs.”

Dogs and their humans from all over Evanston descended on the newly reopened section of the beach at 1631 Sheridan Rd., just east of the Arrington Lagoon. Canines of all breeds, ages and sizes ran in and out of Lake Michigan, raced on the beach, chased after thrown balls and sticks and predictably sniffed one another as they enjoyed the sunshine and crisp fall air. Their humans were content to hang out with other dog owners and bask in their dogs’ pleasure. 

Mike Meyers, dog beach proponent, brandishes posters at the entrance to the reopened dog beach. Credit: Wendi Kromash

Mike Meyers, another organizer, recruited humans to sign the “pet-ition” and handed out flyers. There were liver treats for the pups and clever advertising posters, all his design, if owners wanted to snap selfies with their doggies. He managed the bare-boned marketing campaign on social media.

Over the course of a 45-minute visit to the dog beach, the RoundTable observed many dogs coming and going. It was difficult to get an accurate count because the only dog not running around was a wet senior dog, draped in a towel and shivering on its owner’s lap. All the dogs seemed happy to reconnect with old friends and meet new one, just like their humans.

When asked about her reaction to the dog beach reopening, dog owner Doreen Price said, “It’s pretty obvious when you see all the dogs and all the people involved, that it’s just a really great synergistic way of living life for people and dogs.”

Lauren Rochman lives nearby and said she used to come to the dog beach two to three times a week with her dog Riley, who loves running off-leash and into the water. Rochman said, “It’s been a bummer the past few years having to either drive to Wilmette or drive all the way to Montrose [in Chicago], just for her to use the beach.”

Pet owners and their dogs enjoy the reopened dog beach on Saturday, Oct. 15.

Matt Bowker, owner of Sadie, a Bernedoodle, described himself as a dog owner for only a couple of years, but said the idea of a dog beach is “fantastic.” Asked what Sadie would say if she could speak and offer her opinion, Bowker said “She’d be like, ‘It’s about time, Dad. I’ve been wanting to go here ever since I walked by every day!’”

Rosinski, a September 2021 appointee to the Parks and Recreation Board, worked on the dog beach issue with Meyers, Trisha Connolly and First Ward Council member Clare Kelly, among others.

Rosinski said Kelly and Meyers “talked to the city manager, Luke Stowe, talked to [Deputy City Manager] Dave Stoneback, and found a way to open this up in three days without spending a lot of money. It’s free and open for the next six weeks. I think we’ll probably be able to get a lot of community support and involvement and get this right.”

Rosinski said selling dog beach season passes next year will make sure all the dogs have had their rabies vaccinations. The revenue collected from the beach permits will more than pay for what it costs the city to run the dog beach, she said.

Some of the known expenses will be waste disposal bags; another waste can inside the enclosure; sturdier, more permanent fencing; some kind of entry system (either a person sitting outside to admit permit holders or a computerized fob system similar to what is used at Pooch Park) in Skokie; a security system; and a sturdy access ramp for those with disabilities.

Stoneback recommends hiring a consultant to make sure the project is built properly and won’t wash away during the first big storm.

Meyers complimented Mayor Daniel Biss for wanting to be the “city of yes” by reopening the beach.

Connolly summed things up when she said, “The word on the beach is that this has been the loveliest day people have had in a very long time. And they were so happy to see the dog beach return.”

Wendi Kromash

Wendi Kromash is curious about everything and will write about anything. She tends to focus on one-on-one interviews with community leaders, recaps and reviews of cultural events, feature stories about...

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    1. Thank you, Lauren. It has been corrected — Sheila is now back to being Riley. The RoundTable apologizes for the error. Susy Schultz, editor