LINCOLN SQUARE — Neighbors hoping to build a dog park at Winnemac Park will have to stick to a tight timeline in order start construction and use up city-allocated funding before it expires.
Neighbors voted to set aside $100,000 in ward menu money for a dog park at 5100 N. Leavitt St., Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) announced earlier this year. That money has to to be spent for this purpose by 2023 or it goes back to the city.
The Winnemac Park Dog Friendly Area Committee has already submitted an initial application to the Chicago Park District. If it’s approved, the district will require the group to conduct a yearlong site survey of the area where neighbors want the dog-friendly area built.
That will require committee volunteers to visit the area of the park where the dog-friendly area is being proposed at least 12 times across the year at different times of day to document who is using the park and how.
The committee also will need to collect petitions from neighbors in support of the park, letters of support from the police district and other community groups, and raise additional funds, among other things, to get final sign off from the park district.
The 2023 menu money deadline will mean neighbors spearheading the effort will be working against the clock, said Nikki Kuehl, the committee’s co-chair.
“We hope from start to finish this takes two years. In talking to several of the other [dog friendly area committees] it’s a very tall order,” Kuehl said. “We will see if we can get the ball rolling and if can stay within that timeframe.”
The committee at Winnemac Park hopes to build the maximum size the district allows for a dog park, about 15,000 square feet. After talking to other dog park committees, volunteers expect the project may cost anywhere between $250,000 to $500,000.
The group is fortunate not to be starting its fundraising from scratch or without support from an elected official, said Tim Jones-Yelvington, another committee co-chair.
The park district also has already identified three potential locations for the dog park within Winnemac Park very early in the process which will help speed things up, he said.
Of those three sites, the one located in the center of the park, east of Winnemac Stadium and west of baseball diamond No. 4., is the one the committee proposed in its initial application. The site is a location dog owners already tend to gather, is the farthest away from residences near the park and could benefit from landscaping if the dog park is built, Jones-Yelvington said.
The park district also requires dog parks to have access to a working water source. The committee’s proposed location would have easy access to a water line because of its proximity to the stadium.
“But again, we want to emphasize at this point this is not at all set in stone and it’s something we anticipate will evolve a lot over the course of the project,” Jones-Yelvington said.
The committee is still seeking volunteers to help conduct the site surveys, collect signatures from neighbors and eventually fundraise for the project once its nonprofit status is approved. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit Winnemacdogpark.org.
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