LOGAN SQUARE — The neighborhood will soon have a “destination dog park” if Roxann Ruiz and her dog, Nacho, get their way.
They're finalists in the national Beneful Dream Dog Park Contest, which offers a grand prize of $500,000 to build a dream dog park.
“It’s just astounding to me that it is half a million dollars,” Ruiz said. “I’m like, ‘Wow.’
As a member of the Logan Square Dog Park Committee, Ruiz has been part of an effort to raise $75,000 for a dog park at the east end of Logan Boulevard, on a plot of land bordered in part by the Kennedy Expressway and Western Avenue.
Last summer volunteers cleaned up the lot — once frequented by homeless people and littered with garbage — and more recently put up fencing for a temporary dog park.
While parts of the fence are new chain-link, much of it is flimsy wire and wood slats, and it seems some of the messy visitors are still hanging out. Broken glass and other debris still plague the park, and it does not have the paved surface or gravel pits that would bring it up to Chicago Park District standards.
That’s because the Logan Square Dog Park committee is nowhere near its goal of $75,000, which would still only cover about half of the cost. They’ve raised a little over $20,000, and the actual cost of a bare bones park would be closer to $150,000, according to estimates by the park district.
The committee is also banking on the park district matching the $75,000, something the park district’s website alludes to, saying it's “dependent on the availability of funds.” But Marta Juaniza, a spokeswoman for the park district, said at this time the park district was not contributing to the construction of what it calls Dog Friendly Areas, meaning the committee could be on the hook for the whole bill.
Enter the Beneful Dream Dog Park Contest.
“Being on the dog park committee, we’re always looking for grant opportunities, that type of thing,” Ruiz said.
So when someone told the committee about Beneful’s contest, Ruiz and the rest couldn’t resist.
“We were just like, ‘You know what? This is too good an opportunity to pass up,'” she said.
So Ruiz got to work and submitted an essay for the first round of the contest. She found out in early September that she and Nicole Dalesandro, another Logan Square resident and committee member, had been named among 20 finalists. Then each of them made a video, and when the top 12 finalists were announced Wednesday, Ruiz’s video was among them.
Though Dalesandro’s video didn't make the cut — they suspect Nestle-owned Beneful took issue with the competing Wrigley brand being displayed in a shot of Wrigley Field — Ruiz was overjoyed there is still a chance for Logan Square.
“Hopefully it pays off, and hopefully we get a dog park in our neighborhood,” she said.