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Dogs Could Still Have Their Day at Maggie Daley Park

By David Matthews | January 28, 2015 8:09am
 Chicagoans turned out big-time for Tuesday's Grant Park Conservancy meeting, which addressed the dog ban at Maggie Daley Park, among other items.
Maggie Daley Park meeting
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MAGGIE DALEY PARK — Dozens of dog owners filled Maggie Daley Park's new field house Tuesday night to voice their displeasure with the dog ban at the new surrounding park.

And an influential parks group that held the meeting is trying to loosen that leash.

At a Tuesday night meeting where vocal dog supporters seemed to vastly outnumber detractors, the Grant Park Conservancy outlined four potential compromises to the ban, which has raised the ire of some residents and noted dog lover Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).

The Chicago Park District announced the ban late last year, reversing course after prior assurances that leashed dogs would be allowed.

"The Maggie Daley Park project has been years in the making, and the plan has evolved over time," Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a Park District spokeswoman, explained Tuesday, saying the dog ban is "in alignment with the no-dog policy of Millennium Park, a park similar in scope and size."

 A woman walks her dog along the perimeter of Millennium Park, where dogs are not allowed.
A woman walks her dog along the perimeter of Millennium Park, where dogs are not allowed.
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DNAinfo/Lizzie Schiffman

Compromise for dog fans and detractors

In an attempt at mediation, Grant Park Conservancy President Bob O'Neill suggested four dog ban "alternatives" meant to strike a balance between the people who need to walk their dogs Downtown and the park patrons who don't want to see a new jewel of the city soiled by pet waste.

Nearby Millennium Park, which is owned by the City of Chicago, also has banned dogs since it opened more than a decade ago.

The suggested compromises include:

• Establishing a Maggie Daley "Bark Park," or dog park, akin to the one at Grant Park.

• Directing dog lovers to the existing dog park at nearby Lakeshore East, or converting a vacant parcel in the megadevelopment to a larger dog-friendly zone.

• Designating "dog areas" outside buildings near Maggie Daley Park.

• Allowing dogs on lakefront sidewalks.

"We all know this is a controversial issue, and we've done [those] before," O'Neill said. "I don't want people getting upset."

Meanwhile, dog supporters volunteered their own suggestions for compromise, including urine-resistant grass.

'Dogs aren't going anywhere'

Still, many who attended the meeting left skeptical.

One man who spoke lamented the actions of city and park officials who seemingly prioritized tourists over longtime residents who live near the park. Another said that not only dogs can trash a park — humans can, too.

Joan Pippin, who lives in a Lakeshore East condominium tower, criticized the officials who pushed to build up a residential base Downtown, but "act surprised [when] dogs came too."

"If there's room for compromise here, the city has to realize dogs aren't going anywhere," she said.

Maxey-Faulkner said the dog ban decision was made "in part because there are already two dog parks nearby: Lake Shore East Park and South Grant Park."

But after the meeting, Pippin told DNAinfo Chicago that in order to walk her dog Downtown, she must travel to Michigan Avenue and take a stairway down to Lower Columbus Drive, or use an alley from Lakeshore East.

"This is like 40 acres of barrier between us and the southern end of Grant Park," she said.

Reilly staffer Louie Greenebaum read a letter from the alderman, saying he was "disappointed" with the Park District's reversal on allowing dogs.

Reilly, a dog owner himself, urged the Park District to allow leashed dogs on the pathways winding through Maggie Daley Park, as well as nearby Peanut Park to the east.

O'Neill said after the meeting he was "amazed" by neighbors' responses, and the "decent balance of people on both sides of the issue." He said he planned to relay the feedback to the Park District and pitch compromise solutions Wednesday.

O'Neill said the Park District likely can change dog ban policies without having a park board vote.

New Maggie Daley Park restaurant, tennis courts also on menu

Tuesday's Grant Park Conservancy meeting also addressed Maggie's at the Park, a proposed Four Corners Tavern Group restaurant that would be built on the southern end of the park along Monroe Street.

Park District official Rob Rejman said that while designs are preliminary, they call for a "clean, modern, glassy front," as well as an extension of parkland acting as a "green roof" topping the restaurant and offering views of Buckingham Fountain.

Rejman said much more design work needs to be done, but construction could start as early as June, and the restaurant could open by the end of the year. He also said another public meeting about the restaurant's final design would be held before work begins.

Meanwhile, O'Neill affirmed his proposal for a 12-court tennis venue that would replace the old Grant Park skate park south of Balbo Avenue and west of Columbus Drive. The venue would be well-designed and host tournaments and the public on off days, he said.

The proposal could be seen as an olive branch extended to those upset by the removal of tennis courts during Maggie Daley Park's reconstruction. A new, nearly $2.7-million Grant Park skate park opened late last year.

How Lollapalooza can help

Rejman also reported Tuesday that last summer's Lollapalooza festival hauled in more than $3.8 million for the Park District.

Together with O'Neill, Rejman offered suggestions of how that money could be spent.

Among the ideas: "temporary" sculptures that would bring in artists on a rotating basis, the aforementioned Grant Park tennis venue, and tree replacements along Columbus Drive.

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