Nov. 23, 2016 By Domenick Rafter
Residents near Forest Park want the city to fence in paradise and put up a “barking lot.”
They are getting together to gather support and find ways to fund turning a makeshift dog run near the Overlook section of the park into a permanent play area for man’s best friend.
As renovations to the Overlook section were finishing up back in June, a fence was installed around a small area for a temporary dog run to accommodate local residents who bring their pets to the park.
“When they put the baseball fields there, they didn’t want the dogs running around like they do in other parks,” said E.J. Sydell, a local resident who is spearheading a petition to get a permanent dog park built at the site. “So they gave us a small fenced-in section.”
Called the “Forest Park Barking Lot,” the park has become popular, especially with newer residents with young dogs and now Sydell is joining other residents to push for funding for a new dog park. She has started a Facebook page and is on a committee as part of the 2017 participatory budgeting program in District 29, represented by Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) that is exploring fusing the “Barking Lot” as part of this year’s ballot.
As part of the participatory budgeting program, committees of local residents gather together to come up with a number of capital projects that residents will then vote on to determine whether the projects will be funded. The most popular projects– up to an aggregate figure of $1 million– will be funded.
Megan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, did not close the door on the idea of a permanent dog park.
“The dog run in Forest Park was set up as a temporary run until a more formalized dog owner group is established,” she said in a statement.
Sydell confirmed that she and other interested parties have been in contact with the Parks Department over building a permanent dog run. No price tag has been put on a potential dog park as of yet and Sydell said she may push for a bigger design.
“We would like to make it larger,” she explained. “There’s a lot of space there that isn’t used.”
Alex Anderson, a community liaison for Koslowitz said the dog run is being considered by the committee tasked with looking at parks projects as part of participatory budgeting and has been submitted to the Parks Department for preliminary review.
“It’s definitely being considered,” he said. “If it’s something that Parks finds feasible and people want, it could be on the ballot.”
If it makes the participatory budgeting ballot, residents of District 29 can vote to fund it when voting is held in the spring.
Maintenance of the “Barking Lot” once it’s built is still a big question. Sydell said she would be willing to sit down with experts and discuss how it could be best maintained, and whether it would be the city’s responsibility, the park users, or both.
Lalor said that all dog runs in the city are maintained through a partnership between the city and the community, which Sydell said hopes will be the case in Forest Park
“The way it’s done nationally, and from what I’ve seen in other parts of the country is that it works best when it’s a shared responsibility [between the government and user],” Sydell said. “We know we aren’t going to get more Parks officers to come and maintain it, we would have to take it upon ourselves.”