The Cook County Forest Preserve District has reportedly settled on at least one potential site for a dog park in the near west suburbs, but county officials last week said the decision isn’t final and that they are looking for a commitment from a “local stewardship group” before moving forward.
The one location definitely being considered by the forest preserve district is an open area near Cermak Road and First Avenue in the southern end of the Miller Meadow Forest Preserve in Maywood.
David Kircher, chief landscape architect for the Cook County Forest Preserve District emailed information and an aerial map pinpointing the location of the site to Susan Casey, chairwoman of the Riverside Parks and Recreation Commission, on Feb. 14.
“Here is the general location we discussed being considered as a possible dog park location,” Kircher wrote. “This is the far south end of the Miller Meadow Preserve. The current access to Miller Meadow is from First Avenue.”
Casey called the location a “great site” and said the forest preserve district liked the site, because it was situated away from residential areas and didn’t compete with other uses for the larger picnic grove to the north.
“It’s further away from Riverside than we want it, but I understand their rationale,” Casey said.
The Miller Meadow location also provides more space than open meadows closer to Riverside that were being considered, like the ones off Desplaines Avenue in North Riverside, Casey said.
Chris Slattery, director of planning and development for the forest preserve district, said in an email to the Landmark that the Miller Meadow site “was one of the sites that we’re considering, however, nothing has been settled yet.”
Slattery added that they are still narrowing the list of sites for a possible off-leash meadow, despite Kircher’s email, appearing to indicate that the list had been narrowed to the preferred choice.
Casey said she interpreted the forest preserve district’s message that way.
“My impression was that from the list they presented, this was their only option,” said Casey, whose commission has been trying to come up with a solution to prevent local dog owners from using Riverside parks as off-leash areas.
But Slattery said that’s not the case.
“Miller Meadow is one of the sites we are considering for a new off-leash dog area in the western suburbs, but it is not the only site,” Slattery said in a second email to the Landmark. “We still need to confirm a number of things before we would agree that it is the site.”
Slattery indicated that the forest preserve district wanted a better idea of who was on board locally before making a stronger push for the dog park.
In addition to narrowing sites, Slattery said the district wanted to “confirm that there is a stewardship group that could help with some of the management of the site and get feedback from interested groups.”
The Parks and Recreation Commission will meet again on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. in the conference room at the water tower, 10 Pine Ave., in Riverside. The subject of the dog park will be part of the agenda, said Casey.
Specifically, Casey would like input on how to gather support not only from Riverside residents but surrounding communities for the Miller Meadow site.
“The forest preserve district needs a lot of community support,” said Casey. “Although the idea originated here, it’s a county facility and other towns should be involved.”
Casey said she has reached out to at least one other community so far and hopes to have more support by Feb. 27.
“Hopefully by the next parks and recreation meeting I will have more of an idea if other towns are at least interested in referring people to this so the commission can make a better decision on how they want to proceed,” said Casey.
Asked whether she thought a dog park at Miller Meadow would be a strong enough draw for Riverside dog owners and stop them from using local parks, Casey said she thought it would help.
“I do think that it will reduce the dog running, but it won’t solve it,” Casey said. “Miller Meadow would be less convenient than Swan Pond, but Swan Pond isn’t an option by village ordinance. Not only is there a Riverside ordinance against running dogs without a leash, but Cook County doesn’t allow it either.”
Earlier this year, Riverside police said they would ticket dog owners without warning if officers were called to local parks in response to complaints of dogs running free.