People aren’t the only ones who need exercise to stay happy and healthy. Dogs need to run and play too. That is one of the many reasons why the Park District of Oak Park welcomes dogs in our parks, as long as they are under the control of their owner on a leash no longer than eight feet. That is also one of the reasons why the Park District provides our residents’ tail-wagging companions a place they can call their own. Currently, the Park District operates dog parks at two locations: Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex, 415 Lake Street, and Maple Park, 1105 South Maple at Lexington.
The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) reports that in 2012 over 36% of all U.S. households own at least one dog, which translates to over 43 million households or nearly 70 million dogs (based on 1.6 dogs per household) in the U.S. If these statistics are applied to the Oak Park community, there could be over 7,000 dogs living within our city limits.
The Park District’s first dog park opened at Ridgeland Common in January 2006 after the Illinois Department of Public Health closed an “unofficial” off-leash area in Lindberg Park that residents had been utilizing for several years. Oak Park dog owners needed a new place for their dogs to run and came to the Park District for a solution. The District acted swiftly to meet our dog owners’ needs and chose Ridgeland Common as an ideal location for a dog park as it is centrally located in the Village. It didn’t take long for the Ridgeland Common dog park to become a popular destination.
To ensure the health and safety of the dogs and their owners, the Park District decided to make the dog park available only to those residents who purchased an annual dog park permit. To secure a permit, a Village dog license must be presented as well as proof of required vaccinations and tests. The Park District also allowed dogs to run off leash for two hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings in the fenced sports field outside the dog park. This practice has since been halted due to the installation of a synthetic turf sports field.
At the same time the Ridgeland Common dog park opened, the Park District began an extensive, community-driven study to develop a dog park plan. After seven community meetings and a review of multiple location options, the study concluded that the Park District should have two dog parks, one at Ridgeland Common and the other located in the northwest corner of Maple Park along Harlem Avenue. The study also recommended the Park District work with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County in support of a larger dog park for Oak Park residents to enjoy. The Maple Park dog park opened in May 2011. The Forest Preserve District is scheduled to open a 3+ acre dog grove in Miller Meadows, located at Roosevelt and 1st Avenue, in fall 2014.
During the dog park planning process, a group of dog lovers organized through their mutual interest in off leash areas. Friends of Oak Park Dogs (FOOPD) has been in existence for several years now and continues to provide support and guidance to the Park District as we balance the need for off leash areas with other community recreation needs. For more information about FOOPD, visit www.friendsofoakparkdogs.org.
Maple Park Dog Park
Located in Maple Park at the corner of Harlem Avenue and Lexington Street, the Maple Park Dog Park covers approximately a 12,000-square-foot area, featuring a crushed granite surface, benches, canine water fountain and an electronic entry system. The dog park is open daily to permitted users from sunrise to sunset.
Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex Dog Park
Centrally located just south of Lake Street at Scoville Avenue, the Park District’s newly renovated RCRC Dog Park covers about 11,000 square feet and features a crushed granite surface, benches, electronic entry system, and water fountains for dogs AND humans! Dogs can play from sunrise to 10 pm daily at this dog park location.
Dog park permits can be purchased in-person at the Gymnastics and Recreation Center, 41 Lake Street or at the Administrative Center, 218 Madison (through June 13) or (beginning June 14) at the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex, 415 Lake Street. Permits are only available to Oak Park residents. For more information about the Park District of Oak Park dog parks, please visit www.pdop.org.
By Diane Stanke, Director of Marketing and Customer Service, Park District of Oak Park
Photos by Flickr member Jim’s Photos1 and Candace Zynda