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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Dog beach sounds like it is more trouble than it is worth

    These dog people should be lucky that they have this valuable piece of real estate for their exclusive use.

    Their complaints are ridiculous–"Why is it closed for safety?" "WHy don't we have a place to put our stuff so dogs dont pee on our purses?" "Why doesn't the sand get cleaned more often?" "My dog doesn't like the sand cleaning."

    I would be curious to know if the money collected for the tokens covers the cost of running it.

    A better idea would be to open it to people and forbid dogs like at the other beaches in town.

    1. Walk your dog in your backyard.

      And if you do not have a backyard,don't get a dog.I like to see a law that prohibits dog walking in neighborhoods.I am not happy to have your dog feces and urine on my property.

      Also cats should be kept inside your home.

    2. Schools sound like more trouble than they’re worth

      People with children should be lucky they have schools in high valued real estate for their exclusive use. Their complaints are ridiculous — "my child has to walk too far and cross busy roads", "my child should be in honors courses", "there are too many children in a classroom", "people speed in schools zones making it unsafe for my child". As an individual without any children, I should be exempt from paying taxes to cover these items and adhering to any laws regarding them. And if it's because "I am investing in our future", I have some real doubts about performance in schools. Get the academic performance up, and I might consider giving you some money. Unfortunately, we live in a society that survives on a social contract. We do what is good for the society and sometimes have to pay for things or obey rules that we do not support. Just as I pay for services that I do not use, I am glad that we have a place for dogs to play off leash.

  2. No special favors for dog owners

    "Fiske said a new fence might not be something the city could afford this year, but that it was worth exploring."

    No, it isn't worth exploring.  The City should not be paying for this.  If Fiske wants to create more amenities for dog owners, then she should come up with a way to pay for it.  Perhaps an increase in the license fee for dogs..or perhaps a tax on dog food and dog items  sold at pet stores in downtown Evanston.

    Also, considering Fiske's long history of obstructionism on every development project that comes up in Evanston, I hope that the seven reasonable alderman will join up and obstruct whatever Fiske proposes.

    1. No special favors for dog owners

      First of all I have a DOG.  If dog beach users wants additional ammities for the Beach space. THEN THE LICENSE FEE FOR BEACH USE  SHOULD BE RAISED TO COVER THE COST.

  3. open the beaches to dogs

    If you are going to restrict taxpayers to one small lot of land to take their pets to the beach, then why can’t it be open all year? Why can’t the city just open access? Evanston doesn’t NEED to staff the dog beach.

    Just open the beach up.

    I agree – no need to complain – unless of course you’re paying $100 or so for the privilege of letting your dog play in the water – which we are.

    Get rid of the tax, get rid of the staff and since it’s more pleasant for some to have dog free beaches – limit the dogs to one segment of the beach.

    Sounds good to me

  4. Seems to me …
    Personally, I feel that Evanston charges exorbitantly high fees to allow dogs to be at the beach AND the horribly exorbitant fee, not to mention way out of the way, dog run at Oakton & McCormick. Chicago w/all its problems has FREE dog runs and parks that are double fenced and the fences are high. And, as far as I know, there are no rules prohibiting dogs at the beaches. btw, swimming for dogs strengthens their muscles and helps them deal with arthritis as they age.

    And, you with the complaint, for your information Evanston is becoming more and more a dog town.

    1. Swimming for dogs strengthens their muscles?

      " btw, swimming for dogs strengthens their muscles and helps them deal with arthritis as they age."


      Oh, why didn't you say so?  

      Never mind the e-coli problem, dogs urinating or defecating in the sand, checking rabies shots , or the potential for kids being bitten.   Let's make sure the dogs don't get arthritis!

      And yes, fees are higher in Evanston than they are in Chicago or Wilmette…but we have higher taxes for everything here, so why should dogs be exempt?

      Perhaps if a certain dog-loving alderman would stop opposing tax-generating development, we could have lower taxes for everyone – people and dogs – in Evanston.


  5. Dog beaches
    Dog lovers are one of the reasons I love Evanston and I don’t even have a dog. One of my favorite past times is to take my children and sit on the rocks and watch the dogs play on the beach. It’s an amazing, beautiful site!!!! I say do what we can to make it nice for them.

  6. Dogs need at least one place to run

    As one of the dog owners who attended the dog beach meeting I would like to thank Alderman Fiske for responding to concerns repeatedly raised to the alderman and mayor about issues at the dog beach. The fact that so many people turned out on a Saturday morning demonstrates that many dog owners care about having a safe place for their dogs to run off their energy. It is the only place in Evanston that dogs can be dogs.With two dogs, it costs me over $400 per year to use the beaach, including veternarian bills  and dog beach passes. The dog beach is, in fact, a profit center for the city.

    Contrary to one of the above posts, the concerns raised by the people present were very reasonable. The idea about the bench etc were minor parts of the disucssion.

    The two most consistent issues around which most of the discussion focused were a fence secure and high enough that dogs could not jump over and run out on Sheridan Road. There several good suggestions about how to facilitate access for city vehicles. AldermanFiske's comments that completion of the new fence might not be possible this year reflects her underdtanding of the city's financial situation. It made perfect sense.

    The issue of the beach being open for pass holders only all year is important. During the summer the city is very particular about allowing only passholders whose dogs have had all their shots on the beach. Once the beach is open to all comers, the dogs are potentially exposed to infections from un-vaccinated dogs.

    I give Alderman Fiske credit for calling this valuable meeting.


  7. Once the lifeguards are gone…

    From what I can tell, as soon as the lifeguards go away for the season the dogs show up on all of the beaches.  Sure, there is usually a larger group of dogs at the "official" dog beach, but during a nice day in the off-season you would be hard pressed to find a beach that doesn't have a dog on it.  In the summer, it's also very common to find dogs at all the beaches before the lifeguards start their day and after they leave.  The fee, just like for humans, just ensures that you'll be able to use the beach without a hassle during the rare times that someone is checking passes (~12% of the year).

    I think Evanston has bigger fish to fry than this non-issue.  Like more expansive off-season hours for the lakefront path bathrooms, for actual tax payin' human usage 🙂


  8. Open the beach to people

    Open the beach to "people." As a non dog owner, why are my taxes supporting this small group?

    1. You all have every other beach…

      you all have every other beach in evanston, and we do not are they not enough now you want this too?

  9. This is a joke

    Thanks, but I'll just take my dog to the numerous free dog parks in neighboring towns, including Chicago who has a nice dog beach on the north side, that is *gasp* FREE!

  10. Pls do not increase fees

    If you get a mid-size to larger sporting dog (these are primarily the type who use the dog beach) from a rescue agency – you get a home visit before you allowed to adopt & are REQUIRED to have a decent sized fenced yard.  Pretty much you shouldn't own a mid-size to larger dog unless you have a yard &/or are committed to walking your pet at least an hour a day.  The beach is a bonus.  I use the dog beach (& the dog beach is great!), but only during the regular season as I have a yard for my dog to play in during the winter & take my dog for long walks.  Please don't put in a bunch of amenities for the dog beach & raise the price – I already am taxed to death for my Evanston home & yard.

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