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posted: 3/9/2012 5:00 AM

A little cooperation goes a long way

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but sometimes thoughtful planning and a spirit of cooperation go a long way.

We've been seeing more of that type of thinking lately. Cary Elementary District 26 and Fox River Grove Elementary District 3, both of which have budgetary issues and falling enrollment, are considering consolidation to cut down on expenses; Sleepy Hollow and West Dundee are talking about merging police forces.

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Another striking example being discussed this week is the establishment of a dog park.

Establishing a wide-open space where you can walk your pooch and give him a chance to run and socialize with others of his species is all the rage these days. Dog lovers are clamoring for such amenities; some others of us not so much.

Besides striking a balance between dog people and non-dog people, municipal governments must, too, figure out how to prioritize such projects when money is tight. And it is.

The city of Elgin -- one of three entities that is banding together to create a dog park -- laid off a number of employees in recent weeks. One might think that in light of that, spending on park improvements and the like for the betterment of residents might be shoved to the back burner. Instead, it's good to see the mission of always making our communities more appealing to residents has not been lost here.

Here's how the spirit of cooperation came about:

Elgin residents wanted a dog park, but city officials couldn't seem to find a spot for it that wasn't surrounded by houses. The Streamwood Park District was having a similar problem. Meanwhile, the Hoffman Estates Park District had a desire to develop a second dog park -- and it had the space to do it.

The Elgin City Council this week gave preliminary approval to invest $53,865 in the development of a dog park on what is now a pair of soccer fields in Canterbury Park South, which is in the Hoffman Estates Park District and abuts Elgin's eastern border.

The park originally was slated to fill just 2 acres, but Hoffman Estates Park Director Dean Bostrom agreed to build bigger, given the number of communities involved.

The total bill for building the park is $133,000. Elgin and Hoffman Estates plan to pay $54,000 each, with Streamwood chipping in $25,000, given its smaller population.

Another important factor here is that this was only done after significant surveying to gauge the desirability of such a venture. And it won't be one of those things that should rile taxpaying cat owners. It will be operated on user fees.

Residents of the three communities will pay $49 per year to use the park; nonresidents $69. And Hoffman Estates will handle the billing and upkeep.

This also gives Elgin, whose master plan calls for more than one dog park, a taste of what it's like to have such an amenity without actually operating one.

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