LOGAN SQUARE — The Logan Square Dog Park has come a long way from being a dusty plot of land serving as an abandoned car lot and sometimes homeless campsite, but the people that helped bring it this far know there's still a long way to go.
Park No. 556 is its official name from the Chicago Park District, and being official is something Logan Square Dog Park Committee President Sally Hamann is very happy about.
"There used to be abandoned cars parked there, gang shootings, homeless people, homeless campsites, drug dealing. I mean, when I look at what we have now, compared to what we had four years ago, I say ah, this is wonderful!"
Tucked behind a Kennedy Expy. wall largely hidden from drivers on Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue, it's easy to see why the land could have attracted shady activity.
"I mean, it was just a horrible horrible place for a long time," said Hamann.
And Hamann should know. She has lived about a block south on Artesian Avenue for 20 years and has watched — and helped spur — the change.
She and several other members of what would become the Logan Square Dog Park Committee first approached Ald. Rey Colon (35th) and the Park District three years ago to ask for a dog park there.
For years they worked toward a goal of $75,000, thinking the Park District would match the funds for a total cost of about $150,000. But last year they learned the Park District could not match funds and the price tag for such a large park — about 8,000 square feet and bigger than most city dog parks — was actually $446,000.
That price included paving the land, installing permanent fencing, benches, a two-gated entry, gravel pits, a drainage system, and other Park District requirements for Dog Friendly Areas, their official name.
Colon helped secure a little more than $340,000 in city open space impact fees that had previously been set aside for city green space plans for the same lot dating back to 2002, and another $30,000 pledge was promised from an anonymous donor if they could raise the rest.
So the committee members found themselves back where they started — needing about $75,000.
The group has chipped away at that amount with a fundraiser here, an online donor there — but still needs about $50,000.
It hopes those who plan to use the park will kick in some cash as well.
For $500, community donors can get their pup immortalized in a mural planned for the viaduct wall on the lot after the park is built.
"I think it's going ahead all right." Hamann said. "Raising money, particularly in these times, is hard to do. So to raise $25,000 in a 2½-year time period is not a small amount."
Meanwhile, even though the spot has been redrawn into Ald. Joe Moreno's (1st) Ward, Colon has continued to support the project, and was one of its earliest donors.
"I have a black Labrador, so you know, I'm going to see this thing through to the end and make sure that the community raises its end," he said.
For his part, Moreno also has caught dog park fever. He agreed to match a $1,000 pledge from Sally Hamann herself. She quit smoking July 31 and decided to donate the amount she'd have spent on cigarettes through the end of the year.
"I was impressed by that, and I said, 'How much do you think that would be, and she said about $1,000.' I said 'If you continue not to smoke, then I'll match that,'" Moreno said.
Hamann said the not smoking is going well, with the goal of finally getting the dog park done serving as a good impetus.
For more information about the dog park plans or to donate, visit the Logan Square Dog Park website.