LAKEVIEW — Plans to build a fancy new dog park in Lakeview featuring a cascading waterfall and lazy river may have delighted some local pet owners, but some people living near the proposed pup oasis aren’t as thrilled.
The dog park would take up a 13,000-square-foot section of the public park space just north of Arthur Telscer Memorial Playground and is bounded by Lake Shore Drive and the inner Lake Shore Drive West, just south of Belmont Harbor.
The feedback, however, was not always playful at Brookdale Senior Living, 2960 N. Lake Shore Drive where about 75 residents crowded into a conference room.
Older residents shouted down those they thought lived too far from the proposed park to be acknowledged, and younger residents said living across the street from a public park doesn’t mean you own it.
Although neighbors said they have nothing against dogs, they cited noise, foot and dog traffic and the proposed park’s proximity to Telscer playground as their top concerns. Their complaints were met with loud cheers from fellow opponents.
Ned Lufrano, a 56 year resident of Lakeview who currently lives at 3150 N. Lake Shore Drive, said there were already problems with seniors navigating the sidewalks in the area.
“There’s a problem these days with the senior citizens who walk with canes, with a walker, with their helpers, of the dogs in the area. If we have a dog park there this will be multiplied many times and it will be a clear danger for the senior citizens in our area,” he said.
Visual plans for the canine utopia were not shared at the meeting. Linda Smtih-Brecheisen, part of the six member committee organizing for the park, told Block Club they did have some initial designs but were asked by the Chicago Park District not to announce them yet.
“The park district process is they have to approve any designs,” she said, “So, we were all excited to show the designs…”
Park District spokeswoman Irene Tostado said “the plan is still in development,” and while the district does not provide funding for dog parks (these funds must be raised by a community group), the district does need to sign off on plans after weighing community feedback.
A slide touting what the “premier park” could include listed an area set aside for small dogs, sprinklers, splash pads or a lazy river, a “mountain” structure similar to one in a park south of Diversey and covered seating.
No specific fundraising goals were given during the meeting although Smith-Brecheisen said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) told them to expect a figure close to $1 million.
Tostado said dog park costs vary depending on size and needed infrastructure.
“[Dog-friendly areas] are community-initiated facilities, whereby a community group raises funds and is committed to maintaining the facility,” she said. “The Chicago Park District does not provide funding for dog friendly areas.”
Jeff Katz, a member of the group supporting the park, said the group has met with several potential corporate sponsors and is confident they will be able to raise the funds. First, however, they need to listen to neighbors.
“We need to compile the data we collect this evening … and figure out what do people actually want, then we’ll have to do some design concepts and things like that, and then talk to our corporate sponsor,” Katz said.
The committee hopes to submit their final proposal to the park district in March and begin construction during the summer of 2020.
Stacey Nuzbach, who moved into the area two years ago, spoke up for those who support the park during the meeting.
“I think the beauty of this room is that some of you have been in a community like this for 20, 30, 40, and 50 years and that’s amazing. And that’s what we want. We want to be that next generation of a community” she said.
She said she better knows her neighbors thanks to frequent dog walks, and believes the dog park would create a greater sense of community.
After speaking she received applause from half of the audience and asked where she lived by an older resident.
When she said she lives a few blocks from the park, the meeting again descended into chaos as the room debated whether that was sufficiently close enough to have an opinion.
Katz said he wasn’t surprised by the hostile tone of the meeting.
“It’s certainly not a surprise to us that those several buildings that are not dog-friendly themselves, they don’t allow dogs, would not be in favor of it. But at the end of the day it’s a community amenity, it’s a public park, and everybody has a say…you know, we’ll just trying to figure out what works best for everybody.” He said.
Tunney staffer Jessica Papp said that the alderman is most concerned with the park’s proximity to the playground and he’ll continue to seek community feedback, especially from those closest to the park.
“We’re a community and we’re still going to be neighbors and still going to have to interact every day,” Papp said.
Once design plans are approved by the park district, another community meeting will be held for feedback before moving forward, officials said.
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