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Man Quietly Builds an Agility Course For Dogs on Lakefront Tennis Court

By Sam Cholke | April 16, 2015 5:42am

Todd Agosto has spent the last year building the Jackson Bark dog agility course out of scraps abandoned by construction crews. All photos: DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

WOODLAWN — Where the tennis nets have fallen down at Jackson Park, an obstacle course has sprung up crawling with dogs.

Jackson Bark, aka Hazards Agility Course, is a dog agility course Todd Agosto has spent the last year building almost entirely from scraps of lumber and forgotten construction signs.

“Every month, I just worked one more feature,” Agosto said at Jackson Bark Wednesday with his 95-pound German shepherd, Charlie. “When I kept showing up and nothing went missing, I just kept going.”

The agility course now has more than 10 obstacles, including a seesaw, tunnels and pylons for dogs to weave between. The entire course is tucked away behind the Museum of Science and Industry over a stone bridge around 5900 S. Lake Shore Drive next to Bobolink Meadow.

The South Side doesn't have an official dog agility course, and Agosto has built everything to the standards of the competitions run by the American Kennel Club and other groups.

“I wanted to make something for the die-hard agility people,” Agosto said, leaning on the 8-foot A-frame ramp.

It’s only on close inspection that one notices that the treads are sliced-up bike tires. Nearly everything has been constructed from the remnants forgotten at construction sites.

The seesaw is made from an old barricade. An old sign post holds up the sunshade, and a ramp is braced on a plastic barrier that was dragged out of the Jackson Park lagoon during a volunteer cleanup.

When asked whether the Chicago Park District approves of Agosto’s construction, he shudders and jokes about having a chronic condition that makes it difficult to sit through meetings and fill out paperwork.

The Park District did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and it's not clear whether officials know that Agosto has spent a year building on an old tennis court.

Agosto said he has a strong distaste for bureaucracy and couldn’t stand the idea of waiting around for the park district to sign off on the idea while Woodlawn went without any resources for dog owners.

“By the time we have a dog park, Charlie will be gone and I’ll be gone because I’m ducking bullets in my neighborhood as it is,” Agosto said.

Agosto prides himself on how little he’s spent to get the dog park going, estimating he’s spent $200 in the last year. He said he comes out for a half-hour to an hour every day to work on the park. He said he thinks he’s getting close to a point where he can spend more time focused on getting Charlie over the obstacles.

“He’s made just as much of a sacrifice as anyone because I drag him here and then spend more time working than playing with him,” Agosto said as Charlie tried herding a large plastic ball into a corner as if it was a sheep.

He said he’s always getting new ideas, but Woodlawn needs a lot more than a dog park.

Four-year-old Charlie is still exploring the dog agility course while Agosto finishes construction.

It's not clear that the Chicago Park District is even aware of Agosto's dog park yet.

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