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posted: 7/12/2012 8:46 PM

Arlington Hts. dog park may depend on referendum

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By David Conway

The Arlington Heights park board and staff have targeted three potential locations for a dog park, but whether it gets built will probably depend on whether the park district can get voters to approve a tax increase, officials said this week.

The park district had meetings Tuesday and Wednesday to determine where a dog park would best fit, and to ask dog owners what features they would like to have included.

On Tuesday, Director of Parks and Planning Brian Huckstadt suggested six potential locations, which park board commissioners eventually narrowed to three: an area north of Lake Arlington; the baseball diamond at Nickol Knoll Golf Club; and a soccer field at Melas Park.

Sue Gwinnup, superintendent of recreation, made it clear Wednesday meeting that funding for the dog park would have to be funded through a tax increase. Voters rejected a March request to procure $48 million in bonds for park district capital improvements, which did not include a dog park.

The dog park will almost certainly be added to other long-term capital improvement projects as part of a larger package should the board opt to go to voters again. On July 24, the staff will give the board cost estimates for adding a dog park at each of the three locations.

In June, estimates ranged from $200,000 to $400,000. In addition to sturdy fencing, water and electricity would have to be brought to each site.

Each location also has its own pitfalls: Trees would have to be cleared from the area near Lake Arlington; the Nickol Knoll and Melas sites would require relocating playing fields.

A dog park on the Hoffman Estates/Elgin border that is a joint project between those communities and Streamwood has an expected price tag of $133,000.

The deadline for putting a referendum on the November ballot is Aug. 20. The park board plans to finalize its referendum package, should it decide to go ahead with one, by Aug. 14.

Several residents at Tuesday's meeting, which focused primarily on the park's location, argued they don't want a publicly funded dog park at all. A majority of the people who spoke Tuesday live near Willow Park, one of the six options initially presented to the board but quickly ruled out for its proximity to residences.

Wednesday's meeting was markedly more pro-dog, as the park district staff aimed to get community input on amenities for the dog park, should it be built.

Several residents who attended the meeting stressed that while accessories for the park would be nice, their primary concern is getting a space where their dogs can roam.

"It doesn't need to be an extravagant luxury park," Lisa Senafe said. "It just needs a fence, water and some grass for the dogs to run on."

Though the meeting was about finding out the "must-haves" -- quality fencing, water, garbage cans -- and the "nice-to-haves" -- an agility area, benches, a gazebo -- many dog owners also aired their grievances with park district policies they consider anti-dog.

Dogs are not allowed, on-leash or off, at Arlington Heights Park District parks, though they are allowed in parks owned by the village of Arlington Heights, such as Harmony and Dunton. Some residents suggested easing the park district ban as a compromise should funding not come through for a dog park. The same idea was floated by a person at Tuesday's meeting who was against the dog park for financial reasons.

Jim Glueckert, director of recreation and facilities, said the issue of allowing dogs in parks had been a divisive one, with opinion being split roughly 50-50 in surveys conducted by the district.

Dogs: Deadline for putting question on ballot is Aug. 20

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