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Park district addresses concerns, promises improvements at Rover’s Run

After hearing concerns about membership, security and other issues from Rover’s Run dog park users, staff at the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District presented suggested changes at an informational meeting Wednesday, March 13.

The proposal that will be before the park board at its meeting Tuesday, March 19, is to make the dog park free to residents of Homewood and Flossmoor. The $45 fee would still be applicable to non-residents. To enter the park, which has a locked gate, Rover’s Run users will still need to register and present their dog’s vaccination records to get a dog tag and a fob to open the gate. 

“Just as we invest in playground equipment and parks and there’s no fee, the dog park would be the same. It’s part of our park system,” said Mike Gianatasio, superintendent of recreation.  “We want to put our best foot forward, not just for you but for the dogs.”

The changes passed by the park board in January raised the ire of some Rover’s Run users who argued at a February board meeting that they didn’t have input into the changes. They questioned why the park was moving from a membership-driven program to making the dog park open to all. They also didn’t like that the park district was dropping what they considered a safety step: the registration requirement that users present their dog’s vaccination records.

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Hearing their concerns, the park board backtracked and said the matter would be taken under advisement. In February, the board opened a survey on the dog park on Facebook and through email.  The results reported were pretty evenly split: 52% said make Rover’s Run free and 48% wanted a membership. 

Dog park users at the Wednesday meeting believed the numbers weren’t valid. Because the survey was open, they argue those who don’t use the park were giving answers that would affect their use. And some said they, or persons they know who use the dog park, hadn’t gotten notice of the survey. One woman complained that the survey didn’t ask if the respondents had a dog.

Kim Beatty raised the issue of dog and dog owner safety. She said when there are 17 dogs in the 3-acre park it is crowded and that is when dog fights start and people may get bitten. She also said she had concerns about people jumping the fence at the park at 191st Street east of Center Avenue in Homewood. 

“Those are things that you all don’t have experience with,” she said.

Gianatasio said those are concerns that the park district will be addressing. The dog park monitor will be out at the park more often as the weather gets nice, and staff member Dyana Metheny will be responsible for tracking memberships and being open to the concerns of dog park users.

“If we could ensure the quality of the dog park would remain the same, card access or some level of access for members, dog tags remain the same, the rules remain the same essentially, would you be comfortable with the plan we put forth?” Gianatasio said. 

He said the fencing would be repaired and benches would be replaced.

“The quality of the facility, we don’t intend for that to decline in any way. In fact, we intend for that to increase with these new updates and renovations,” he said. “It’s our intention to invest time and invest resources in that facility so it’s a quality facility for everybody.”

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