HUMBOLDT PARK — Local residents are pushing for a dog park within Humboldt Park's sprawling namesake park, which would be the neighborhood's first.
The residents said the dog park would not only provide a fun place for dogs to socialize, but would also make the neighborhood safer because fewer dogs would be roaming off leash.
"There's so much area in Humboldt Park. It's just enormous and much of it seems to be under-utilized," said Bryan Hadley, an architect who lives near the park with his wife and apricot-colored Moyen poodle, Milo.
Hadley is among more than a dozen neighbors who formed a steering committee to designate a dog-friendly area, or dog park, on the southeast quadrant of Humboldt Park near Division Street and Sacramento Avenue. The site was chosen because it's far from annual park events like the Puerto Rican Festival.
A couple of months ago, the committee submitted a formal application through the Chicago Park District's approval process. The committee now has to get community support through a petition and a letter from the alderman, as well as the park advisory council and neighborhood association.
The final steps include hosting at least three public meetings, creating a layout and maintenance plan for the park and making eight visits over a year to the site to outline how it would be used.
The committee would also have to raise the money to pay for the dog park. According to the park district, the average dog park costs $150,000, which includes a fenced off area complete with trash cans, gravel or artificial turf and drinking fountains for dogs, according to the Tribune.
Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a spokeswoman for the park district, said the park district is currently reviewing the committee's application for feasibility. She did not elaborate on the likelihood of it being approved
If approved, the dog park would be the neighborhood's first.
According to Hadley, some neighbors tried to build a dog-friendly area in Humboldt Park in 2015 but the proposal never came to fruition.
Peter Wilhelm, a resident on the committee, said those neighbors were likely intimidated by the park district's lengthy approval process.
Wilhelm has lived off the park with his husband and 4-year-old Terrier mix for about two years. Prior to that, he lived in Washington, D.C. for six years, which is where he grew to love living near a dog park.
"In D.C., we were really close to a dog park. It was sad at first when we were like, 'We don't have a great place for him to play.' That's what started my path down this pursuit," Wilhelm said.
So far, committee members said they haven't received any community opposition. Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) told the committee he would support the plan as long as the broader community is on board, according to Wilhelm and Hadley.
Maldonado wasn't immediately available for an interview, but his chief of staff, Kathleen Oskandy, said the alderman supports "enforcing the city's leash law, which protects dogs, their owners and others enjoying the park and is urging residents to abide by this law for their own safety and the police to enforce this law."
According to the committee, the dog park wouldn't just benefit dog owners — it would also improve safety throughout the neighborhood.
"A lot of people don't realize that a dog needs social condition much like a human being does," Hadley said. "A dog that is around other dogs with greater frequency in a place that fosters healthy fun interaction essentially results in a better, socially adjusted dog. So you have fewer issues with dogs either being afraid or aggressive."
That opinion was shared by fellow committee member Julia Goss, who also lives off the park, one of the city's biggest at 219 acres.
"We only want half an acre. I don't think a small dog park could really negatively impact the neighborhood in any way," said Goss, who owns an 8-year-old German short-haired Pointer.