Dog owners say no to plan for new fenced park

The Memorial Hall board room was standing room only Tuesday night as KLM Park users turned out to urge village officials not to replace the open space they and their off-leash dogs enjoy with a much smaller fenced facility.

The special meeting of the parks and recreation commission served as an opportunity for commissioners to hear public opinion on a plan revealed last month to create a 3.35-acre fenced area in the southwest corner of the 52-acre park at 5901 S. County Line Road. Dogs are currently free to roam 13.5 acres across the north end of the park during limited morning and evening hours.

Hinsdale’s Matthew Halpin told commissioners that, since even leashed dogs are banned from Hinsdale’s other parks, the KLM area constitutes the sole 10 percent of village park land where dogs are welcome.

“The new proposal would reduce that into single digits, to only 2.5 percent of dog friendly space,” he remarked, contending that would be a disproportionately tiny amount given the large number of dog owners in town.

The fenced dog area concept emerged after the village and developer Edward James of KLM-adjacent Hinsdale Meadows determined that plans for James to level additional lacrosse fields at the park as stipulated under a 2016 development agreement was no longer a desirable community benefit. Instead, the developer would construct the fenced dog park with an electronic gated entry, an idea the village previously rejected.

The fenced area would be available all day, under the proposal. Annual registration and daily usage fees are also being considered, with different rates for residents and nonresidents, a provision some speakers took issue with.

Resident Blair Jackson asked why dog park users should have to pay but not users of KLM’s disc golf course.

“If you’re talking about charging a fee for the dog people, I think you should be doing that for all people that use the park,” he said.

Jackson also said he would not take his family’s dog to a fenced park for safety reasons. A number of speakers said fenced parks discourage the self-policing that happens among the regular and responsible users of open areas.

“I find that at enclosed dog parks, many people bring their unruly dogs that are unable to follow voice commands because they feel secure in the fact that there dog will not run away,” Hinsdale’s Beth Grunow said.

Deputy Police Chief Tom Lillie said the department has responded to hundreds of dog-related calls at the park in the last two years, including dogs accosting people outside the designated area. But Lillie acknowledged the majority of incidents happened outside the prescribed dog park hours.

Lifelong resident and daily KLM dog park user Robert Silver said reports of feces not being picked up or off-leash dogs bothering other park guests go against the ethos of the vast majority of park users.

“It actually runs very smoothly, and generally without any incident,” he said, while underscoring the fears of greatly reducing the dog play space. “Taking that large amount of people and large of amount of dogs confined to a small space, your incidents are going to increase,”

Commissioners said they had been enlightened by the nearly two hours of comments offered. The commission, which advises the village board, is expected to issue a recommendation on the matter at their 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9 meeting.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean