Apr 282011

A revised concept for the 16th and Wabash park was presented in the meeting room of the District 1 Police Station on April 27th.

The park proposal arises from Alderman Fioretti’s initiative, and he should be acknowledged for pushing this forward.


Here is the concept presented last November:

The plan at that time was fairly well received – the overall park area was allocated 60% as an area for South Loop residents to play with their dogs in a safe off-leash environment, and 40% for people without dogs – but inviting them to participate in the experience.

The total area allocated as a ‘big dog’ area was ~0.37 acres and the total area allocated as a ‘small dog’ area ~0.17 acre. Total: about 1/2 acre of the 1 acre site.

Note that the size of Grant Bark Park, the largest dog park in downtown Chicago is ~0.4 acre.

So, no, not a big park.  But OK.

And, given careful thought about appropriate surfacing, one that might be a decent play area for people from the neighborhood and their dogs.

We were all looking forward to the revised proposal, “reflecting community suggestions on the park design to date“!

Here, to scale, is the new concept plan (apologies for the cell phone pic, but this is what we’ve got):

Take a look at that.  The little squiggly area to the right of the image is the dog park.  There’s a performance area and stage to the left, on the Wabash St. side.

You want numbers?

The so-called ‘big dog’ area comprises about one quarter of an acre (0.26 acres).

The so-called ‘small dog’ area comprises about one tenth of an acre!

(It’s easy to get these numbers by scaling the images and counting pixels. They are correct.)

The new proposal shrinks the off-leash areas by 33%.

What did the CPD representatives say about this?

‘We are building one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, dog friendly areas in Chicago!’


16th & Wabash Proposal – ~0.36 acres

Grant Bark Park – ~0.4 acres (1.1x)

Wiggly Field – ~0.5 acres (1.4x)

Montrose Dog Beach – ~2.5 acres (6.9x)

This is Chicago, granted.  Yes, parks have to be small.

How about these small parks:

Grant Park Tennis Courts (next to Grant Bark Park): ~0.8 acres (2.2x)

Grant Park Skate/Beach Volleyball Park (next to Grant Bark Park): ~0.9 acres (2.5x)

Grant Park Softball Fields (north of Grant Bark Park): ~3.3 acres (9.1x)

Sure, there were a lot of very nice design elements in the proposal –

  • A water feature (nice!).
  • Three-dimensional sculpting of the space (nice!).
  • A walking bridge over the space for people playing with their dogs (nice!).
  • A performance stage (nice!).

But parks are not just places “the dogs can come and do the things they need to do” (quoting Leslie Recht, Alderman Fioretti’s liaison).

Parks should be places where dogs and people can play, run and socialize.

Imagine your dog chasing a ball in the proposed off-leash park… where exactly?

Off-leash dog areas are important to the community. People will take their dogs to places where they can play and run and catch.

And residents will support a sanctioned area if it evidences thoughtful respect for those needs.

If the goal here was to create a space for people and dogs that encouraged them to use sanctioned space for off-leash activity… ?

Well. You decide.  Comments are welcome.

  9 Responses to “16th & Wabash Dog Park Proposal Shrinks 33%”

  1. […] For comparison, Grant Bark Park is ~18000 sq ft (0.4 acre), and the average size of a Chicago DFA is ~0.18 acre.  The Fred Anderson Dog Park now proposed occupies only  about 45% of the ~1.1 acre site.  This is less than the original design proposal presented two years ago, but is certainly an improvement over the revision that was presented last year. […]

  2. I hear you @southlooper, but I think a tiny patch of asphalt is much worse for recreational activity with your dog than almost any other type of open area. (For one, an active dog can easily tear up its paw pads fetching balls on asphalt! There are others.) Some have suggested that the City could save millions of dollars simply by providing a carefully tended open field in that lot! I guarantee you that would be a welcomed space. But we have no idea what final design the Chicago Park District folks will propose – perhaps it will be a magical space for the dog community and for the surrounding neighborhood. But perhaps, more likely, the CPD will design ‘to policy’– for which, take a look at the tiny asphalt ‘dog parks’ that have opened in the last year or so in Chicago. IMHO it’s important that we don’t ‘settle’. There’s no question that there are tight space constraints in the city. But that, particularly, makes this a situation that calls for creativity and vision. And for making sure that the voices of those who respect their dogs as more than simply ‘animals that pee and poo’ are heard.

  3. any type of park is better than an empty lot. take what you can before the city gives us nothing. i am also a dog owner so any type of area for our dogs is better than nothing.

  4. GSLA blog has the drawings.

  5. Look, if we all walk away from this saying ‘Chicago politics sucks!’ it pretty much guarantees that we’ll have no input into the process. Each of us has a voice – the least we can do is each ask that the design process be honest and that the needs of the community be considered openly and fairly. There is a large dog community in the South Loop. The point of posting this information was to provide facts to the community that the representative of the Chicago Park District was not prepared to discuss (or perhaps, was not willing to discuss) at the ‘public’ meeting on April 27th.

  6. This stinks! Why the change in size? Let’s face it, now that the election is over. Promises to voters mean nothing!

  7. Chicago promising things they don’t deliver? Weird. (note heavy sarcasm)

  8. The walking track is still there – it’s the white ribbon that outlines the off-leash ‘bean’. The off-leash area has been squished, and the performance area expanded and reoriented on the site. Why? “Community Input” we are told.

  9. Why the big change?? I wasn’t able to attend the meeting this week but I was at the last one. This is incredibly disappointing news. Our dog isn’t that big but we were really looking forward to some space that we could enjoy with him (and that had the walking track for people who want to jog/walk with strollers/etc).

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