The concept of turning a portion of Grey Park at Ridge Avenue and Main Street into a dog park got a generally favorable reception at a 9th Ward meeting Wednesday night.

The city has been looking to add more off-leash play spaces for dogs since the city’s dog beach was rendered unusable by rising lake levels several years ago.

Falling lake levels permitted reopening the dog beach this year, but many people with pooches are still hoping for more options.

Two years ago city staff conducted an extensive analysis, complete with public meetings and an online survey, of possible dog park sites — but steep opposition from neighbors of each of the proposed sites doomed that effort to find a new location.

Grey Park didn’t make it to the short list in that review — with staff saying that since it, like many other parks, is very close to residences, it didn’t appear to be worth exploring further.

Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) invited neighboring Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma, whose 4th Ward includes Grey Park, to discuss the Grey Park dog park concept at Wednesday night’s online meeting.

Jonathan Nieuwsma.

Nieuwsma said the idea of using Grey Park was suggested by a resident at a community meeting a couple of months ago and has received support from residents in his ward.

“We’re going to move ahead and start the planning phase for this park,” Nieuwsma said, including a community meeting organized by the city’s community development and parks departments this summer or fall.

Nieuwsma said neighbors have told him they’d “enjoy having this amenity in the neighborhood that would bring some positive energy to that corner.”

Many residents have complained over the years about what they might call “negative energy” from the use of the east end of the park by residents of the Albany Care nursing home across Maple Avenue from the park.

Nieuwsma said only a portion of the 1.5 acre park would be converted to the dog park. “We want to reserve some of the park for human residents as well,” he added.

Brian Becharas asked about fencing for the park — to reduce the risk of pets being hit by cars on heavily-traveled Ridge Avenue.

Nieuwsma said fencing would need to be sufficient to assure the safety of dogs and humans and that it hadn’t been decided which portion of the park would be converted for dog park use yet.

City staff, in their 2021 report, said a dog park area would need to be at least half an acre in size — or about a third of the size of Grey Park.

Nieuwsma said the cost of the dog park would need to be included in the 2024 city budget and that “hopefully” the cost would “not be very much.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. How and where will the need for parking be accommodated? What about maintenance of the lawn turf, which will become quickly torn up and then an open field of mud for much of the year? I love dogs, have a dog, love dog parks, but this reporting indicates the idea is moving forward in a half-baked manner; I worry it’s poorly-considered and gaining momentum as a reaction to the presence of Albany Care residents.

    1. David, the need for parking would be eliminated if we had several more parks throughout the city, and each one could be accessed by neighbors who will be walking their dogs to the park, rather than driving. Evanston has roughly 100 tot-lots throughout the city, and only one dog park, which is shared with the city of Skokie. So many of us who live and work and shop and pay taxes here in Evanston should have access to dog parks near where we live. Dog parks are a wonderful place to meet our neighbors, socialize, and become a presence that is a strong deterrent to crime.

  2. Full disclosure: I’m one of the residents who suggested the dog park idea. I have a dog and live quite close to Grey Park.

    Regarding parking concerns: there is street parking on Main Street, including metered spaces in lots a couple blocks away, as well as parking on neighboring streets. Based on the enthusiastic responses I’ve heard when I solicit opinions, the proposed dog park would also attract a lot of foot traffic from the many dog owners who live and walk their dogs nearby. Considering the walkability and housing density of the area, a dog park would provide welcome outdoor space for dogs and their humans who live in nearby apartments and don’t have regular access to fenced-in yards.

    David, I’d also like to offer reassurance that the conversations about the park have been thoughtful, measured, and well-considered even in these early stages. Council member Nieuwsma has spoken about the idea at two recent ward meetings, the fourth and ninth. At the fourth ward meeting, he invited the city engineer to speak about the logistics of the plan. He’s mentioned the idea in his newsletter and has solicited feedback from the immediate neighbors and from Albany Care management.

    I hope I can reassure you that this proposal is not “a reaction to the presence of Albany Care residents,” who can, should, and will continue to enjoy daily use of the park. The reality is that Grey Park is a relatively large, rolling tract of land with a lot of untapped potential; I walk through it almost every day, and in my observation much of the plot sits empty and unused. Among other things, the proposed dog park aims to expand the utility of Grey Park while also addressing a relative dearth of dedicated spaces for dogs in our city. In my own experience, walking my dog through the park and past Albany Care also offers opportunities for engagement with many of the residents, who have enjoyed watching our rescue pup grow up over the past eight months. Far from a reactionary move, the addition of a dog park is meant to invigorate Grey Park and offer a gathering spot for everyone, humans and canines alike.

  3. Wow… excellent reassurance from Will. I too live nearby and have had many dogs… and also want to echo Brian Becharas in his concern that fencing be a priority. Dog safety is essential… and that of the humans who would run after them into the street, as well as the welfare of drivers. No one wants to hit a dog, and swerving to avoid doing so is the natural reaction. Fences being strong and high enough, and good dog owners bring vigilant, I am hopeful this will happen. Many Albany residents over the years have also loved my dogs, and it warmed my heart. The sweetest therapy for all.

  4. Hopefully they’ll plan for a budget to maintain any new dog parks so they don’t become muddy messes like Pooch Park, which I m sure many residents don’t use because they have to load their dogs covered in mud back in their car. This location. Is also relatively close to pooch park (both accessed on Main) … how about a dog park at Lovelace, or more central, such as along the Canal by Green Bay Road?

  5. I read a minimal reference to consideration for “small dog areas”. My dog (under 10 pounds) and I (over 10 pounds) would much appreciate dedicated space for the little ones. Thank you.

  6. I think this is a great idea for what I believe is a very under-utilized City Park… And yes, I agree that much consideration should be given to what could be a mud-bowl and also a thoughtful provision for a small dog sanctuary like the one at the Canal’s Pooch Park.

    Respectfully, Brian G. Becharas

  7. If the local psychics and therapists have concluded there is
    “negative energy” emanating from Grey Park (the article references
    Albany Care) and dogs will reduce or eliminate negative energy and
    thereby replace it with “positive energy”, I can recommend a few more
    buildings near me that could use a dog park. Ceal Hanchar.

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