NEAR WEST SIDE — A community group accused the Chicago Park District of leaving them in the dark on design choices for Skinner Park’s dog park, adding that the artificial turf chosen by the city is literally going to stink.
“I’m telling you point blank, when it starts to stink I’m not going to deal with this thing,” said May Toy, executive director for the Skinner Park Advisory Council.
At Wednesday’s monthly park district meeting, Toy told district commissioners that she felt the design process for the dog park — set to go up near the northeast corner of Loomis and Monroe streets — had been anything but transparent.
But park district superintendent Michael Kelly said the district had worked with the neighborhood to develop the park.
“The Skinner Park Advisory Council did support a dog park in the area,” Kelly said.
Toy snapped back that “1,500 people in my community said they were never consulted, okay? That is a lot of people.”
Toy was referring to 1,500 signatures her group collected on petitions from neighbors claiming they were not aware of the design plan for the dog park.
The local park council has been trying for over ten years to make the park a reality. But recently, Toy said, the communication line to the park district has dropped off. Earlier this month, Toy filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the final design plans for the dog park.
Her request for those plans was rejected, with the district writing to her that "detailed plans are exempt from public disclosure."
A plan for the park was first introduced in 2010, but was delayed until Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) could secure necessary funding, according to reporting done by the Chicago Journal. At a community meeting regarding the dog park last November, the local council rejected the park district's proposal for a park with artificial turf instead of grass.
Burnett said the park district has already agreed to concessions — like a dog drinking fountain and gazebo for shade — and now it's the council's turn to back down.
"I'm not going to stop them from building the park. I'm not going to stop them in the middle of the road so somebody can get everything they want," the alderman said of the council's demands. "I think most people in the community would rather have a dog park with artificial turf than no dog park at all."
But Toy and other members of the Skinner Park Advisory Council say the fake lawn will stink, and also pointed to studies showing that the fake grass can heat up to dangerous levels for dog paws in the summer.
They want the city to lay down sod instead.
“It’s our tax dollars, our fundraising dollars that are going to this thing,” Toy said. “The park district just basically cut us out of the equation.”
The park district plans to move ahead with the project as designed, despite the group’s concerns.