Though registration began Thursday for a much requested and long-awaited Schaumburg dog park scheduled to open Oct. 1, a nearby Hoffman Estates resident with a public safety background is questioning the use of a detention pond for dogs to swim in at the park.
Marc Kovitz said the depth, water quality and lack of monitoring at the pond in the Schaumburg Park District's new dog park at Copley Park, 120 Remington Road, make it a hazard to both pets and people.
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"I just believe why take the risk?" Kovitz said. "The pond was there, but they should have just circled it off. The rest of the facility is gorgeous! It's a wonderful park."
He said his opinions on safety are informed, in part, by his service as a police officer and volunteer firefighter in other Midwestern states about 40 years ago.
Kovitz emphasizes the distinction between a detention pond -- which is fed exclusively by stormwater runoff from roads and parking lots -- and that of a lake or stream that would be constantly refreshed by another source of water. He believes a detention pond would have a higher concentration of bacteria, salt and other contaminants, in addition to the feces and urine the dogs would leave themselves.
But Schaumburg Park District Executive Director Tony LaFrenere said safety will be a prime consideration in the final design of the park and its operation, which will follow the precedents and standards set by other nearby agencies with dog parks.
Furthermore, the nearby Golf Rose Animal Hospital in Schaumburg has been a partner on the project ever since a community survey identified the strong public demand for it, LaFrenere said.
Representatives of Golf Rose Animal Hospital did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.
The approach to the pond has always been intended to be via a zero-depth pier accessible through a gate that can be fastened, LaFrenere said.
The original idea was that the rest of the pond would be surrounded by tall grasses that would inhibit approach to the shore. But because the grass never grew very tall, the park district will be building a fence all the way around the pond, he added.
Furthermore, there is a safety shelf of 1.5 to 2 feet in depth which runs along the edge of the pond. The deepest part of the pond is 8 feet, LaFrenere said.
That depth is another concern to Kovitz, who said dogs can tire, too, while swimming -- as can their owners who may jump in to save a struggling pet while visiting the park all alone in the early morning or evening.
LaFrenere said signs will be installed in the park informing visitors that use of the pond is allowed but at one's own risk.
Schaumburg village officials said there is nothing inappropriate about the park district's intended use of the dog park or the detention pond.
Schaumburg's Assistant Director of Community Development Matt Frank said the village recognized no difference in the use of the detention pond for dogs to swim in at their own risk from that of any other body of water.
Nevertheless, LaFrenere said, the facility will be equipped with a hose for dog owners to rinse off their pets after leaving the pond.
He added that no others have expressed concerns -- even among the first 230 people who'd registered for its use through midafternoon Thursday.
"We've gotten a really good response from people," LaFrenere said.
Both Kovitz and LaFrenere sought the input of State Public Health Veterinarian Connie Austin on the use of the detention pond.
In email replies to both, she indicated that there is some risk of potential hazard in any body of water, about which everyone has to make an individual assessment. Both men interpreted this as a reinforcement of their opinions.
Melaney Arnold, communications manager for the Illinois Department of Public Health for which Austin works, said the department has no research or study results of water quality differences between detention ponds and other natural bodies of water. Furthermore, the water quality of any body of water is dependent on many variables.
The Department of Public Health has no regulatory authority for such bodies of water, Arnold said.