Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dog Park at Wabash Ave. in the South Loop's Future?

Chicago Loves Dogs
Even to the casual observer, Chicago is a dog-loving town. Here in the South Loop, there are more dogs per capita than almost anywhere else in the city. And if you do any walking around town, you know that some dog owners do not clean up after their pets. This can make walking in the city unpleasant at times.

The vacant lot on Wabash, just south of 16th St.

Lack of Green Spaces
It may seem like there are a lot of “green spaces” in the South Loop for dog walkers, but in reality, there are few, if any designated spots for such a purpose. Several condo associations have dog runs, but few have actual parks, and if they do, they’re private. Some of these private dog runs are open to the public at large, but they are not required to be.

Fun at Bark Park

Park Planning Goes Back to 2007
Second Ward Alderman, Robert Fioretti, with the support of South Loop Dog PAC and other neighborhood organizations, is planning a state-of -the-art dog park for the vacant lot on the east side of Wabash Ave., just south of 16th.  Plans for a park at 1611-1629 S. Wabash date back to 2007. Currently, the only public dog park in the South Loop is Grant Bark Park (Coliseum Park contains a dog run area, one of two dog-friendly areas that the South Loop Dog PAC maintains, technically it’s not a park) west of the railroad tracks at 11th St. Although dog owners are grateful it’s there, the space leaves much to be desired.  The Bark Park is a hard-surface area—asphalt surfaces for dog parks is Chicago Park District policy—similar to an asphalt parking lot. The dog park planned for Wabash will be a combination of hard and soft surfaces, along with terraced plantings and dog water fountains.

Meeting Place for Dogs and Owners
Initial funding for a dog park comes from the city, but the upkeep and funding for future maintenance comes from local volunteers and dog owners. When the park is completed, (estimates vary from next summer to four years from now) supporters believe it will add to the neighborhood aesthetics as well as being a place for dog owners to congregate with their pets. “ I never knew anyone until I got a dog,”  says South Loop resident Jeanette Johnson.

Most of the dog parks in the city are on the North Side noted South Loop Dog PAC board member, Doug Freymann. “The Wabash Ave. Dog Park would be the southernmost dog park in the city.”

View of the Wabash Ave. lot from above
Will Add to Community Growth
Any neighborhood change or improvement is bound to attract some controversy, and the Wabash Ave. Dog Park is no exception. Some in the neighborhood think there are enough spaces for dogs. They fear the space will be noisy and dirty an eyesore that will negatively impact their property values. Local realtor Eve Kronen said, “Dog parks rarely impact neighborhoods; in fact they are received very well. So much better than having the dogs just run free. I have never had an objection of a purchase of a piece of property because a dog park was across the way.” Proponents, including the alderman, think that a well-run dog park will help keep the city clean. Instead of walking their dogs on the street and sometimes not cleaning up after them, a dog park could alleviate some of the mess on South Loop sidewalks.  “Dogs are part of life in the South Loop,” says Greater South Loop Association (GSLA) president and South Loop resident, Deborah Jo Soehlig. She adds, “and this park will go a long way in continuing our growth as a community.”

UPDATE: A dog park is coming to Wabash and 16th. On November 17, 2010, the preliminary plans were shown to the public. Click here to find out when this project may start and what it might look like.


  1. A dog park is nice, but a community p-patch and wild bird garden would be better. Stock half with native plants and flowers, add some nest boxes and beehives...divide the other into plots for South Loopers to rent and plant with flowers or would be a welcome, welcome, much-needed green space in this part of town.

  2. Actually @Ecogrrl, you are in luck with most of your requests. The South Loop already has a fantastic community garden at the Women's Park (entry near the Clark House at 18th& Indiana). The plans for the dog park are state of the art and will be an attraction for not only South Loop residents but all Chicagoans.

    Take a look at the dog friendly area in the new West Loop Adams/Sangamon park and you will see how the park can be green!

    It shocks me that the South side does not have any better resources than Grant Bark park.

  3. How about a park for kids? Maybe a basketball/volleyball/mini-soccer court in there too? And still let dogs run around if they are not harmful. Why would dogs need a special park? Or what would be special for dogs about it?

    I have a boxer myself who loves to run around, so I'm not really biased...

  4. Parks make urban living better and not the Private but Public Parks.
    Adding green space to the city environment provides cleaner air, a buffer to the noisy surroundings, a getaway from busy streets and house small animals and insect’s habitats.
    That Wabash location can be very successful public space with Dog Park that offers meeting place for not only dogs and their owners but all residents and other visitors.
    What has to be done is the examination of the role and function which that Park should include. The site analysis and historical study should be done to bring that lot to its finest public use.
    It can be a magnificent piece of green land that connects surrounding neighborhoods and becomes a common space as a park- a playground for everyone, and finally as a path.


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