HUMBOLDT PARK — A plan to bring a dog park to Humboldt Park is inching closer to reality.
The Chicago Park District in April approved the construction of a 10,000-square-foot dog park in part of the park along Luis Munoz Marin Drive near Sacramento Avenue after several years of planning, according to Becky Marshall, vice president of the Humboldt Park Dog Park Initiative, the neighbor-led group pushing for the park.
“I can’t figure out if I’m going to pass out, cry, or dance, I’m so excited,” Marshall wrote in an email.
It’s the first step of many. Now that the city has granted initial approval, the Humboldt Park Dog Park Initiative must collect signatures from neighbors, determine a water source and launch fundraising efforts. The group is responsible for raising all of the money needed to build the park. Typically, dog parks cost between $100,000 – $150,000 to build.
The long wait, which group members say stretched on for at least two years, afforded the Humboldt Park group time to start on some of the next steps. The group has already gathered dozens of signatures and met with local aldermen. Soliciting donations comes next.
Marshall and her fellow group members say a dog park will not only build community, but will also make the neighborhood safer.
“As long as it’s safe and clean and not making a lot of noise, [a dog park] is a good thing because it keeps people from having their dogs run off leash to get some exercise in the city,” said Peter Wilhelm, a member of the Humboldt Park Dog Park Initiative.
Wilhelm, 40, has lived in Chicago on and off for more than a decade. A couple of years ago, he landed in Humboldt Park by way of Washington D.C., where dog parks are common.
“In D.C., we were really close to a dog park. It was sad at first when we were like: We don’t have a great place for him to play. That’s what started my path down this pursuit,” said Wilhelm, who lives with his husband and Terrier mix.
Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), whose ward includes the park, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. He did, however, issue a letter of support to the group.
If all goes according to plan, the dog park will be built three to nine months after securing final approval, according to Marshall, who has been working closely with city officials.
So far, there has been no public opposition to the project, and Marshall said the group has the support of both longtime residents and new residents.
But in Chicago, and other cities across the country, some see dog parks as drivers of gentrification, partly because they’re usually spearheaded by higher-income millennials. Humboldt Park, the city’s largest Puerto Rican enclave, has been the subject of gentrification debates in recent years, particularly after the arrival of The 606’s Bloomingdale Trail and the ensuing real estate boom.
The group wrote a letter, which it plans to share with the community, to address those concerns. In it, the group wrote that a dog park is “about inclusivity, not displacement or disruption.”
“We absolutely want to preserve the culture of the neighborhood we know and love,” the letter reads.
“In such a space, community members will come together, chat and get to know each other. Friendships that may not have otherwise been formed will be established, leading to a more close-knit community whose members work together and help each other,” the letter continues.