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.

Apr 202011

Can the Chicago Park District support Poo Free Parks?

Can the City of Chicago?

Poo Free Parks is a program to provide advertising-supported dog waste bag dispensers that require no city effort to support, no ‘volunteers’ to keep on top of things, and no cost to taxpayers.

What’s the catch?

There is none.

And it’s a beautiful implementation of GPS-aware and web-savvy design – want to find a dispenser? Go to the webpage and you’ll see a map of all locations, and you can report any issues online:

The town of Elmhurst is installing PooFreeParks dispensers this week.

So will the Chicago Park District embrace this?

What do you think!  🙂

It’s going to take a lot of effort.  Please comment or contact us if you think this project is worth supporting in Chicago!



Apr 132011

We note the passing of Zorro Hughes, canine emeritus of 910 S. Michigan Ave and founding member of the South Loop Dog PAC.

Click on the image for a tribute to Zorro from Bob Hughes


Click on the image to read a tribute to Zorro written by his human, Bob Hughes.

Apr 132011

Yesterday, thanks to coordination between Claudine Malik of the Chicago Park District, contractors for Verizon Wireless, and board member Pamela Focia, twenty tons of fresh pea gravel were delivered to Grant Bark Park.

We were able to have the north gate fencing removed so that the truck could back up into the park.

And here’s the result:

IMG 1108

What next?

Two things. We’re going to install landscape fabric along the west side fence to prevent gravel loss to the Metra tracks below.

And we’re going to make arrangements to distribute the gravel at the north end of the gravel area.

This will happen in the coming weeks.

You’ll notice that twenty tons sounds like a lot. But it turns out that to completely refill the 40′ x 220′ (8800 sq ft) gravel area to a depth of six inches would require two hundred tons of gravel!

More to follow.

Jan 172011

We don’t know much yet, but here’s what we’ve been told by the contractor who was pulling down the fencing on the north side of the park today:


  • Verizon is installing new cell towers in the space between the park and the maintenance building.


  • They are going to have to bring in cranes and equipment, and need to have access to the area – hence the takeover of the park.

  • The process is going to take on the order of a month (‘industry standard’ for such an installation), but no guarantees.


  • Everything will be “put back as it was before” once the installation is complete.

You can make your own inferences about some of the issues here!

For now, the only access to the park is from the south entrance.

The ‘interior fencing’ appears to be secure, and your dogs should have access to the south end, the full gravel area, and the area around the kiosk at the north.

The SLDogPAC has contacted Chicago Park District personnel to get some answers, and we’ll put up another post when we have more information.

 Posted by on January 17, 2011
Dec 162010

We received this reminder from  Watch out for your dogs out there, particularly in the winter months!


Blair Sorrel, Founder

Contact voltage is a chronic hidden hazard that can readily victimize an unsuspecting dog, walker, or both. No dog lover could possibly observe a more horrifying scene than witnessing his beloved pet instantaneously maimed or tragically electrocuted. When you exercise your pooch, please exercise greater prudence. Common outdoor electrical and metal fixtures may shock or even kill your vulnerable dog. And depending upon the current, the walker will be bitten and like poor Aric Roman, suffer permanently. But you can, indeed, self-protect.

Just start to adopt this simple strategy — EYEBALL THE BLOCK, AND AVOID A SHOCK.

  • Take a few seconds and make your trajectory toward generally safer, free standing, non-conductive surfaces, ie., plastic, wood, cardboard. Intuit your dog’s cues and if it’s resistant, change directions.
  • Work site perimeters may be live so try to elude them. If necessary, switch sides of the street or your hands when leading to skirt hazards.
  • If you traverse the same route, you may memorize locations of potential dangers.
  • Carry your pooch when in doubt.

Consider indoor restroom products like PottyPark when external conditions are chancy or RopeNGo’s hardware-free leash and harness. And don’t rely on dog booties as a palliative as they will actually put your pet at even greater risk since the dog can’t tell you they’re leaking!

To learn to more, please see StreetZaps. A safer walk is yours year round if you are willing to open to your eyes and mind to it

 Posted by on December 16, 2010
Dec 052010

Interesting news in Alderman Pat Dowell’s December 3 2010 Ward Newsletter – an effort is underway to locate a dog park in the nearby Bronzeville neighborhood!

Possible New Bronzeville Dog Park


Bronzeville resident Ephraim Lee has been working with Alderman Pat Dowell and her Chief of Staff, Audrey Wade to create a dog park for Bronzeville. Below is the text of a letter he sent to the Third Ward office and asked to be shared with Third Ward residents. Please let Ephraim and the Third Ward Office know what you think.

Greetings to all residents of Bronzeville; my name is Ephraim Lee and I am writing this letter to announce some exciting news. As a dog owner I have found it difficult to find open and inviting places within our community that allows our dogs the freedom of running, playing, and socializing with one another, and I know that I am not alone in this dilemma. Well, after speaking with Alderwoman Patricia Dowell and her wonderful assistant Audrey Wade, we have decided that what is missing in this community is a public dog park/run.

It is well known that dog owners everywhere love and cherish their pets, and that is no less so here in Bronzeville. A dog park would give our four-legged companions-and us-places to meet and mingle, sniff, and stretch their legs. Information could be shared about the numerous changes in our pet’s healthcare, or where to locate a very responsible veterinarian. Of course as a community we would be primarily responsible for its upkeep and maintenance, but this should not present a problem in the least.

But in order to make this dream a reality, we need everyone’s help in the search for the perfect lot on which to build. Please note that the lot in question has to be of manageable size, and as centrally located as possible. All entries will be accepted and after careful review the winning lot will be selected, graveled, and fenced in, for our pet’s enjoyment. Smells will be kept at a minimum through everyone picking up after their furry friend, and a plastic baggie container will be placed on site for collections. One other thing that bears noting is the fact that many vacant lots are privately owned, and if this is the case that said lot might not be picked for the site. I will make sure that all updates on this search are placed in the monthly newsletter, issued each month by the alderwoman’s office, or if you prefer, you can be contacted via e-mail.

So for all suggestions and picks, please e-mail them to:, or contact me by phone at: (773)556-6665. I look forward to everyone pitching in and helping me give those four legged friends who love us, a place to love!

We applaud Mr Lee’s efforts to create a new dog park for Bronzeville!

 Posted by on December 5, 2010
Dec 032010

These are images of preliminary dog park design proposals for the 16th & Wabash park that were recently discussed publicly for the first time.

These are works in progress and they present two different visions – Plan A: a curvilinear droplet of a dog park surrounded by people friendly* pathways and defined by grassy berms. Plan B: a rectilinear block of a park that plays off the diagonal arrangement of different surfaces – artificial grass, decomposed granite and asphalt.

Public areas at the north end of the park are being designed to facilitate access by True Rock Ministries for church events.

The current space is about 1.1 acres in total (click for full size; image is to scale with the drawings):

Plan A (click for full size):

Plan B (click for full size):

Note the inclusion of ‘small dog’ and ‘large dog’ areas, and the use of various surface materials in the park.

Also note the inclusion of a ‘concession area’ in both plans.  In plan A, this area would be associated directly with a restaurant being developed to open in the building south of the park.

Alderman Fioretti’s office is soliciting input: ‘For more information and to make comments, please email the project team at:’

We at the South Loop Dog PAC would like to hear your ideas, as well.  Feel free to comment here or to email us your comments and ideas.

We’ll continue to discuss the issues raised by this project on this website as the project develops.

*Not ‘resident friendly’ as is stated (and here) in contrast to ‘dog friendly’!  Dog owners are residents of the South Loop.

 Posted by on December 3, 2010
Dec 012010

So, it has been about eleven months since the South Loop Dog PAC started supplying dog poo bags at the two South Loop dog parks, and we can now estimate the total number of bags that we’re going to have to supply each year.

How many bags? Twenty two thousand.

(Yes, that’s 22,000.)

That is a lot of bags.

22000 bags/year is about 1800 bags/month, or about 61 bags each day.

That’s 61 poos picked up each day*.

That’s 22000 poos picked up each year, with your support.

This is a good thing.

How much did it cost us?  Well, each bag costs $0.032, plus the volunteer time donated to refill the dispensers.

The two dispensers cost about $100, and we can amortize that over a few years…

So 61 bags/day is about $1.92.  Or, 61 poos picked up for less than two dollars a day.

That is money well spent.

*What is the ‘bag efficiency’?   How many bags are stolen?  Wasted?  We don’t know yet. We do try to track usage, but don’t have complete information.  A few people are coordinating this effort, and we don’t have time to do everything!

Yes, it would help if an army of volunteers were willing to step forward! Please do!

 Posted by on December 1, 2010
Aug 212010

There’s a new dog park at Adams & Sangamon in the West Loop .

It’s a small park, but an interesting space, located on the west side of Bartelme park on Sangamon street:

Interesting that there’s no ‘pea gravel’ in the park, only the different concrete levels and several patches of artificial dog turf.

There’s a very nice self-filling water fountain located at the center of the park (it’s obscured by the tree at the front of this picture).

No poo bag dispensers yet. And there’s only one entrance, on the sidewalk at the far end in this picture.

Will the dogs get used to the space? Will they take to the artificial dog grass?  Will they be happy fetching in the triangular layout?

The concrete levels do provide some interesting sitting space for the humans.

And, you can really tell it’s a dog friendly area – according to the Chicago Park District – because if you put a huge chain on your dog, then you can let her smell the flowers!

 Posted by on August 21, 2010
Jun 152010

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:

Click to download a PDF version of the document

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?

Jun 132010

The South Loop Dog PAC has a new Facebook page.

Facebook users – ‘Like’ our Page and become a ‘fan’ and you’ll get updates from our (website) Blog, our (twitter) Tweets, and our (facebook) Wall sent directly to your Facebook home!

We’ll be retiring the old Facebook ‘Group’ soon!

May 112010

On May 1st,  South Loop Dog PAC coordinated with representatives of two other Chicago ‘Dog “Friendly Area’ committees, Puptown and Churchill Park, to represent Chicago dog area committees at Bark in the Park.  Some pictures from the event:

Debby Kotzen (Churchill Park) and John Lenti (Puptown) spread the word.

Pamela Focia (SLDogPAC) watches over our display.

Puptown's display of hats and T-shirts. Nice stuff.

Churchill Dog Park had T-shirts and Calendars available. The committee has a long term fund raising vision - represented by the fire hydrant waiting to be 'filled' - that should translate into some cool projects down the road.

Discussing dog issues of the day.

This seemed like a useful exercise, but we didn’t sell much, if anything.  A bunch of people took membership information from the parks they frequented, and we hope this translates into ongoing support. If we do do this again, we should be clear that the function is to raise awareness of the role of DFA Committees in maintaining the off leash areas in Chicago, not fundraising. Next time, we might want to have a banner of some sort, and try to get more of the Chicago DFA support groups involved. We do have a Facebook page already!

Some things we learned:

  • By far most of the people we asked were completely unaware that all dog friendly areas in Chicago are user-supported. This is a failure of communication by the city and the Chicago Park District. We will be bringing this to their attention – all DFA license holders should understand from the moment they pick up their tag: your off leash dog park is maintained by users like you, not by the City!
  • The most requested information was ‘where are the dog parks‘.  Luckily we had made one copy of a Google map that showed the location of the DFAs in Chicago, but for the future – we need more of these.  We’ll be adding a link to the map on this website soon.
  • And… John Lenti of Puptown is truly a masterful ‘barker‘ (pun intended).