Will Co. makes plans for fifth dog park
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org April 3, 2013 9:54PM
People and their dogs gather in the dog park at Hammel Woods Wednesday, April 3, 2013, in Shorewood. Hammel Woods was the first dog park in the Will County Forest Preserve District, and now the fourth is slated to open this summer in Wilmington. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 5, 2013 9:25PM
Bandit the English bulldog was wheezing loudly after his romp at the Hammel Woods Dog Park late Wednesday morning.
His Boston Terrier buddy, Mimis, was still full of spunk, however. She whined and pulled at her leash trying to get owner Hugo Calderon of Joliet to take her back into the park, where the doggie duo had just frolicked in the sun for about an hour. Calderon said he loves the dog park for his critters because, “You can just let them go and they can do their own thing.”
After running around in the park, the dogs are better behaved at home, he added.
“When I don’t bring them here they’re chewing things and tense.”
The dogs were enjoying the park around the same time the Will County Forest Preserve District was making plans for its fifth dog park.
Hammel Woods in Shorewood was the site of the district’s first dog park, which opened in 2002 at the DuPage River Access on Black Road. The 7-acre park was an immediate hit and it led to more dog parks at Whalon Lake Preserve in Naperville and Messenger Marsh Preserve in Homer Glen. The district’s fourth dog park will open in the Wauponsee Glacial Trail’s Ballou Road Access in Wilmington this summer.
On Wednesday morning, the district’s operations committee approved spending $446,251 on improvements to the Lower Rock Run preserve’s McClintock Road Access. The project will include a parking lot, a new latrine, picnic tables and the district’s fifth dog park, which will open off McClintock Road on the north side of Route 6 in Joliet sometime next year.
The full forest preserve district board will vote on the contract during its monthly meeting at 9:30 a.m. on April 11.
The district’s newer dog parks all have three separate pods: one for small dogs 35 pounds and under, another for large dogs and a third that is left idle and rotated so the turf can regenerate, said Marcy DeMauro, the district’s executive director.
The only dog park without three pods is the one in Hammel Woods. Because it was the first dog park, district officials learned a lot from it, DeMauro said. They learned that big and small dogs should probably be separated for safety reasons. And the district realized it needed a staff of community police officers to patrol the parks to make sure people sign up for permits, which cost $40 a year for one dog, $55 for two dogs and $70 for a maximum of three dogs. Non-residents of the county pay more; seniors get a discount. Half-year and daily permits also are available.
Owners must prove their dogs are current on their shots before they can qualify for the permits.
Also, the district now makes sure “doggy bags” are plentiful so owners can clean up after their pets. Not everyone does it, but most do, DeMauro said.
DeMauro said the number of permits issued has skyrocketed to 2,800 issued this year for 8,000 dogs.
“These (parks) are very enjoyable to people,” she said. “It becomes part of their daily routine. It’s not just a recreation. There is a big social component to it, too.”
While the Hammel Woods dog park may be the oldest, the people who patronized it on Wednesday were fans nonetheless.
Amber Haas of Joliet brought her yellow Labrador retrievers Jed, 9, and Xena, 8 months, to the park to fetch a Frisbee and socialize with other animals. Her husband, Corey, trains the dogs at the park to retrieve so they can go duck hunting with him, she said.
Haas said the permit fees are reasonable and she likes that the district monitors who is using the parks.
“It’s safer for our dogs and ourselves,” she said as she gave her dogs sips of water from a gallon jug.
Sally Cassaro of Aurora had a day off work so she made a beeline for the Hammel Woods dog park with her “granddog” Rubee, 2, a coon hound/beagle mix.
“I can’t think of a better way to keep her socialized,” Cassaro said. “It’s great to see them having a life and running around.”
Cassaro and others at Hammel Woods agreed the district’s investment in dog parks was well worth it.
“This is just a nice break for the animals and the people,” she said. “You can just walk around and not get run over. ... It’s a big investment in keeping people sane.”
For more information on the Will County Forest Preserve District and its dog parks go to www.reconnectwithnature.org.