One of the two most common questions that people bring up is – “Why is the Grant Bark Park surfaced with asphalt?“.*
A reasonable question. The last thing I think any of us would propose de novo is to build an off-leash dog park that looks like the parking lot at your local mall:
The Chicago Park District requires that DFA be hard-surfaced, and states that hard surfaces prevent transmission of bacteria and viruses. But this is not some bureaucrat’s whim, and there’s a history behind the decision.
The proponents of the first dog park in Chicago, Wiggly Field, spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best surface for an off leash area in the City. They noticed that grass quickly became mud, and they carried out tests for the parasites left behind in various surfaces, with the help of veterinary consultants. They approached the issue of determining the appropriate surface for dog ‘friendly’ areas thoughtfully. And it was their input that guided the policy decision made in 2000. Their work is written up in the attached document, which we’re posting with permission of Stacey Hawk of DAWG:
For those of us concerned about the off-leash dog ares in Chicago, this is an important read. The priority issue is clearly stated: Infectious Disease Control. On page 2 of the document, the issues and concerns with various surfaces are explored, and the argument is made for requiring a hard-surface at ‘DFA’s, and for allowing a pea-gravel relief area (with some constraints).
There are also some revealing compromises stated up front – particularly, that “dog guardians should ideally cross-train and exercise their dogs in various environments“.
This is a document that impacts all of us as dog people in the City. The evidence and arguments supporting the ‘hard surface’ decision were provided by dog advocates, not by bureaucrats. Those of us who believe that ‘dog park as parking lot’ is a reductio ad absurdum will have to acknowledge and address the issues raised in this report if we are to propose a different direction.
* The other being – Where is that dog park, anyway?