Dog owners told Evanston officials today they want the dog beach open year round.
And almost all the two-dozen people at the unusual Saturday morning session at the Civic Center conceded that they take their dogs to the beach even during the winter months when it’s officially closed.
With that, Parks Director Doug Gaynor joked that he’d have ordinance violation citations for everyone on their way out the door. But Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who chaired the meeting, suggested the year-round idea was one that deserved further study by city staff.
Top: Residents at the dog beach meeting. Above: Alderman Judy Fiske led the discussion.
The city now has an employee at the gate to the dog beach during the season, checking whether people have dog beach passes, which cost $60 for Evanston residents and $120 for nonresidents.
But as resident Barbara Janes noted, “Come Nov. 30, the gate goes down and anybody can go on the beach, even though the sign says it’s closed.”
One woman suggested giving passholders key cards that would let them open the gate themselves, and several speakers suggested replacing the current snow fencing with a more substantial fence that would be harder for dogs, and people, to climb over.
Fiske said a new fence might not be something the city could afford this year, but that it was worth exploring.
Policies for the beach are complicated, Gaynor said, by county regulations that require that dogs on the beach be licensed and vaccinated against rabies and other diseases.
If the county checked the beach and found unlicensed dogs, Gaynor said, they could order it closed.
Some residents also complained about a policy that requires people and dogs to keep off the sand as well as out of the water when pollution levels are high. But Gaynor said the city has to follow that procedure if it hopes to receive state grants for lakefront projects.
After one woman complained that she ran up $700 in vet bills to treat rashes her dog, who doesn’t go in the water, for E. coli infections it apparently picked up playing in the dog beach sand, Gaynor said he’d like to have the sand machine-cleaned more often than the once a week treatment it gets now.
But he said when the equipment operator goes on the dog beach now he frequently hears complaints from dog owners that the work is interfering with their pets’ fun. Sand at the city’s beaches for people is now machine-cleaned almost every day, Gaynor added.
Owners at the meeting agreed they’d like to see the sand cleaned more often, and suggested 5 a.m. as a good time for the sand cleaning, before most owners were likely to show up to give their dogs a morning run.
Some residents said they’d like to have benches or tables on the beach for owners to put their purses and other belongings on, because, if they just drop them on the sand, they become targets for dogs looking for a place to urinate.
But other people at the meeting opposed that idea saying owners who chose to sit at the furniture wouldn’t be watching their pets closely enough, and that items left behind might end up being stolen.