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Ward Park Dog Area to Become More Paw-Friendly, Renovations Start Thursday

 The current dog-friendly area at Ward Park.
The current dog-friendly area at Ward Park.
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DNAinfo/Lizzie Schiffman

RIVER NORTH — Renovations begin Thursday on the dog-friendly area at A. Montgomery Ward Park.

Planned improvements to the dog-friendly area in the northwest corner of Ward Park include adding new trees and more paw-friendly surfaces. At completion, it will be the second-largest dog park in the city behind Montrose Beach, according to Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).

The fenced-in area's asphalt will be treated with a protective tan covering that's gentler on dogs' paws and stays cooler, a water fountain with a dog's-height bowl and a nozzle for hoses.

Reilly has been working with the River North Residents' Association and the dog owners' association for six years to find a way to fund renovations, he said at a meeting last fall. Early on, residents were expected to raise funds independently for the project.

Last year, Reilly secured TIF money to cover the cost of upgrading the park, which takes the burden off residents, but forces the construction timeline to be significantly expedited.

The renovations are expected to take a little over a month, according to Bob Foster, a Chicago Park District spokesman. The River North Residents' Association predicted it would be completed in time for the Taste of River North July 18.

Reilly said at a community meeting in September that they would not be able to create separate areas for small and large dogs at the park, which was requested by some residents.

Reilly — who said he understood the need because he owned two Yorkshire terriers — said dividing the Ward Park dog-friendly area would be "like having a one-bedroom apartment and deciding to turn it into a two-bedroom. Suddenly you've got two walk-in closets and no bedroom."

As an alternative, Reilly said he would work with the Chicago Department of Transportation to develop a fenced-in area exclusively for small dogs at the nearby Ohio Street dog park, funded with his "menu money" from the city's Capital Improvement Program.

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