PORTAGE PARK — Hawk, a 3-year-old Siberian Husky, was completely oblivious to the stifling humidity as he romped and played in the newly expanded dog-friendly area at Portage Park.
"He loves it here," said his owner, Megan Grasso, as she fanned herself. "He hates being on his leash."
Hawk and his four-legged friends no longer have to settle for boring walks in the park tethered to their humans. An expanded dog-friendly area opened Aug. 3 in Portage Park, complete with dog beaches, a water fountain and plenty of room to run.
"It is a great community asset," said Nicole Hrycyk, the president of the Portage Park Dog Park Committee. "It is a sign of good things to come."
The $75,000 expansion, spearheaded by Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th), was funded with money from the West Irving Park Tax Increment Financing District. Portage Park now boasts the fifth-largest dog-friendly area in the city, he said.
The original dog park, which opened in fall 2012, was too small, Cullerton said.
"It turned out to be pretty popular," Cullerton said. "It is another sign of progress. We want to bring more good people to the park."
The dog-friendly area, located in the northwest corner of the park near Central and Berteau avenues, can now easily accommodate all of the dogs looking to let the wind ruffle their fur, Hrycyk said.
"When we first moved to Portage Park, I wished we had a dog park," Hrycyk said, whose dog, Moxie, is an Australian Shepherd mix. "I'm so glad we have such a nice one now."
Although the original plan for the expansion called for separate areas for small dogs and large pooches, there was no way to get water to the large dog area, which would have been an issue for the dogs' safety and made cleanup impossible, Hrycyk said.
"We were also concerned that the fence would cause biting and fighting, rather than playing," Hrycyk said.
Dogs who use the off-leash areas must have a special tag to prove they are licensed and vaccinated. The tags, available at most parks, are $5.
On Sept. 8, the committee will host dog training classes at the park by Barks and Recreation in an effort to encourage responsible dog ownership, Hrycyk said.
In addition, plans are still being finalized for the commitee's annual Halloween pet costume parade in October, Hrycyk said.