Off-Leash Dog Park

Although, this idea re-surfaced in December 2018 when a citizens group interested in a fenced-in, off-leash dog park approached the Park Board, its real genesis came out of the 2016 Winnetka Park District Community Needs Assessment Survey. An off-leash dog park was ranked, as a top five priority investment and a number two unmet need for parks and facilities. Since December of 2018, the Park board and staff have evaluated a potential dog park and gained valuable feedback from the community. See below for a timeline of updates.

December 13, 2018: Board Meeting Minutes
January 10, 2019: Board Meeting Minutes
February 28, 2019: Board Meeting Minutes
March 14, 2019: Board Meeting Minutes
March 21, 2019: Board Meeting Minutes | Presentation
April 11, 2019: Board Meeting Minutes
May 16, 2019: Board Meeting Minutes | Presentation
Community Open Houses (6/24 and 6/25): Meeting Handout

Update: July 18, 2019

Over a number of years, the Winnetka Park District has considered an off-leash/off-beach dog park community opportunity. The interest became more relevant recently based largely on the following two factors.

  • The 2016 WPD community survey highlighting this unmet need within the community with strong community interest for this type of amenity
  • A voiced stakeholder interest from a representative group of residents attending a December 2018 Park Board meeting

With this renewed interest, the Park District Board directed staff to review and initially evaluate locations. Through the initial process, the District identified two Park District locations to further consider.

Since that time, there has been additional valuable community feedback including the most recent June 20, 2019 Park Board meeting.

District staff also conducted four well-attended stakeholder open house dates 6/24/19 (West Elm Park) and 6/25/19 (Crow Island Woods); where a significant amount of further insightful and thoughtful community involvement was provided at all four meetings.

Two additional community surveys have featured the dog park consideration including; 2019 Village caucus, and July 2019 WPD online survey.

Taking all of the above-mentioned community and stakeholder feedback into consideration; the Winnetka Park District has re-prioritized and re-considered potential dog park locations to include two non-Park District owned properties, (Village of Winnetka-former landfill frontage and Forest Preserve of Cook County-Erickson Woods).

In recognition that the Winnetka Park District does not have ownership or jurisdictional authority of either of those properties, only initial and cursory contact had been made with both of these government entities. Since that initial contact, further dialogue has developed with both public property representatives.

Additional inquiry to the Forest Preserve District Cook County staff has resulted in their response indicating that; “…although the Forest Preserves currently supports three dog parks, there is no interest in increasing the number” and “…a land use request for a dog park is unlikely to succeed”.  Further response offered additional consideration of a list of properties belonging to the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways. While these sites did not initially meet our basic criteria, staff plans to further evaluate these sites.

Further discussion regarding the Village landfill site (Willow Road) has resulted in their staff suggesting a collaborative interest in the concept. However, a clear indication was given that the primary focus and priority for that site and surrounding area is dedicated to the complexities and timing surrounding storm water planning. The process for further consideration of that site for an off-leash dog park would not be expected until such time as a storm water plan and timeline were more fully developed. The district staff intends to continue to dialogue with Village staff in terms of the feasibility of this site for a dog park location in the future.

With the exception of the above-mentioned activities relating to the two alternate sites, there are currently no other planned public discussion or Park Board action expected to be taken on the creation of an off-leash/off-beach dog park.

Subsequently, there will no longer be a July 30 Open House or August 22 Park Board meeting agenda item related to this topic. Instead, a summary of this brief statement of direction will be part of the July 25 Board meeting agenda.

Future Park Board Meetings that plan to include agenda items relating to the potential dog park will be communicated on our website, as well as emailed to any current contacts who have attended/signed in for a board meeting or the open house events.

Update: May 31, 2019

Community Engagement

Meetings

In order to gauge the community’s interest in a dog park and the sites identified, the Park District held the below meetings. During these meetings, attendees had the opportunity to learn why the sites were chosen, view the proposed area of the dog park, review conceptual plans, ask questions, and give feedback to Park District staff. Both the evening and daytime meetings at each site followed the same format.

Monday, June 24
West Elm Street Park
10-11am or 7-8pm

Tuesday, June 25
Crow Island Woods
10-11am or 7-8pm

Feedback Survey

From May 31 to July 2, the community had the opportunity to give feedback through an online survey that was shared via email, social media, the District’s website, and the community engagement meetings held on June 24 and June 25.

Determining Suitable Sites

In January 2019, Park District staff began the process of researching and evaluating potential sites in the community to identify viable options for an off-leash dog park. The sites evaluated included land owned by the Park District, the Village of Winnetka, ComEd/Union Pacific, the Cook County Forest Preserve, and District 36. Additionally, staff reached out to neighboring communities to explore opportunities for developing a shared dog park.

A total of 33 sites were evaluated to determine whether or not they had the potential to meet the minimum requirements necessary for a dog park. Out of the 33 sites evaluated, only four sites met the minimum necessary requirements. Each of these four sites were explored further to determine suitability and further narrow down the scope of consideration. Details and results are included below.

West Elm Street Park (owned by Winnetka Park District)
Results: Suitable

Crow Island Woods (owned by Winnetka Park District)
Results: Suitable

Sheridan Park (owned by Village of Winnetka)
Results: Not Suitable
Due to parking and traffic constraints, proximity to houses, and small size of park, this site was removed from further consideration.

Village of Winnetka Landfill (owned by Village of Winnetka)
Results: Not Suitable
Due to parking constraints and location along heavily traveled and congested Willow Road, this site was removed from further consideration.

Top Suitable Sites

West Elm Street Park

Property size: 3.74 acres
Proposed dog park size: 1.21 acres
Estimated cost to build dog park: $100,000-$125,000

Positive aspects:

  • Size of park allows a portion to remain as a passive people park
  • Size of park allows dog park to be set back from sidewalk, providing additional distance between the park and nearby houses, thereby reducing the impact on neighbors
  • Land is already an open grassy area and does not need to be altered (aside from amendments to improve drainage)
  • Park has existing shade trees
  • Park has existing water connection for potential future dog shower/fountain

Potential challenges:

  • Proximity to neighbors
  • Proximity to school
  • Proximity to playground
  • Topography (some drainage issues)
  • Mature tree canopy
  • Limited to on-street parking (currently)
  • No restrooms available on-site
  • Mixed usage of park

Conceptual drawing of potential dog park at West Elm Street Park.

Crow Island Woods

Property size: 17.91 acres
Proposed dog park size: 1.11 acres
Estimated cost to build dog park: $100,000-$125,000

Positive aspects:

  • Size of park allows a portion to remain as people park
  • Park has existing shade trees
  • Has existing water connection for potential future dog shower/fountain
  • Restrooms available on-site

Potential challenges:

  • Proximity to neighbors
  • Proximity to school
  • Proximity to playground
  • Amount of rentals and mixed usage of park
  • Topography (some drainage issues)
  • Mature tree canopy
  • Parking restraints
  • Redirection of Park District’s current restoration plan for park
  • Understory plants would need to be removed and replaced with grass
  • Village’s potential stormwater management plan

Conceptual drawing of potential dog park at Crow Island Woods.


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