Miller Meadow is about to get a makeover, including a new dog park.

Representatives from the Cook County Forest Preserve District unveiled maps of a new master plan at an open house July 25 at Miller Meadow in Maywood.

With some pooches in tow, about 30 dog owners converged on the event, some snacking on cookies and juice provided. The parcel is located on the southeast corner of First Avenue and Roosevelt Road, across the street from Loyola University Medical Center.

The Forest Preserve District is taking online suggestions for the dog park until July 31 on its website,

Forest Preserve District planners have mapped out a seven-acre fenced area for unleashed dogs to run free near the south entrance to the meadow off First Avenue. Leashed dogs are allowed on any part of the site. Officials have said the dog-friendly area at Miller Meadow is on track to open in summer 2014.

The dog park site was selected because it was closest to adequate parking, said Kindy Kruller of the Forest Preserve District.

“There’s a double parking lot right there,” Kruller said.

The proposed dog area would either be divided into two sections for large and small dogs or into two separate sections, one of which will lie fallow and recover from prior use.

But some of the dog owners commented that bathrooms were too far away from the dog park.

“I want a bathroom I can go into with my dogs,” one woman said.

Access to fresh water was also a problem, as the Forest Preserve District’s pumps were located on the other side of the park.

Members of the Friends of Miller Meadow Dog Park, a group organized through the efforts of Riverside Parks and Recreation Board member Susan Casey, said they were glad to see the space marked out.

“I was hoping dogs were going to be included on the site plan,” said Casey. “For the last two years people have stood by me and worked with me to get this going.”

Kruller said Oak Park’s park district had also been working with the Forest Preserve District to support the plan since the Ridgeland Commons park closed for renovation.

Some dog owners were surprised to see a different location for the site than the one that had been released earlier by Forest Preserve District landscape architect David Kircher.

Previously, the dog park was slated for an open meadow in the southwest corner of the property, using the Cermak Road/First Avenue cutoff as an entrance.

That area is now designated for model airplane enthusiasts, who fly their radio-controlled aircraft at the property. Radio pilots requested a meadow space far away from troublesome trees to keep flight paths clear.

The change was OK with Casey.

“They hired a planner and a designer designed it,” said Casey. “They needed to take into account all of the different groups.”

Some owners said their dogs enjoyed running on cut grass as well as among prairie grasses and urged planners to consider stretching the dog park site east to encompass some prairie.

Cook County has two other dog parks on land owned by the Forest Preserve District. They are the seven-acre Bremen Grove Dog Park, near 159th Street and Oak Park Avenue and the 26-acre Beck Lake Dog Friendly Area at East Central Road and East River Road in Glenview.

Cook County dog permits cost $50 per dog for residents and $100 per dog for non-residents. Three dogs per person are the maximum number allowed. Permit holders must display a lanyard permit at all times. Dogs must provide proof of vaccination and a veterinarian must sign off on a county dog permit.


Other uses for Miller Meadow

The Miller Meadows site plan includes other uses for the property. A large portion of the plan includes prairie grassland as a bird and wildlife area. A walking path circles the grassland area, and a curving path leads to the top of a small bird-watching hill.


The park will also have regulation soccer fields, Kruller said.


“We’ve gotten some inquiries from local camps who want to use the space for their children’s activities,” she added.


The plan also includes an 18-hole disc golf course where players can fling their discs into baskets, a children’s play area, picnic improvements, sand volleyball courts and a canoe launch into the Des Plaines River.


“We can’t do all of this at once,” said landscape architect Maria Sovan of Upland Design Ltd., who have contracted with the Forest Preserve District to design the plan.


Loyola employees often park in the forest preserve’s parking lots, and the plan includes a pedestrian overpass to link the hospital and park. Kruller suggested the hospital would be paying for that.


“The hospital wants to use the park more for their patients and staff to have picnics or get some exercise,” Kruller said.


Part of the open house was to prioritize which parts of the plan should go first. By the number of dog owners at the event, it was clear that there was demand for dog space.


The Forest Preserve District has a 2013 budget of around $370,000 for Miller Meadow for immediate improvements. More money will be freed up in upcoming yearly budgets and when the Forest Preserve District issues capital improvement bonds.


“I’m grateful with the population density in the area we have the opportunity to have our dogs run,” Casey said.

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