Frequently Asked Questions
What is a DFA?
DFA stands for Dog Friendly Area, an off-leash dog park. It is a separate fenced-in area in the city where dogs can exercise and play off-leash in a safe and supervised environment.
Why should I support a DFA in Winnemac Park?
We ask for your support in the development of a DFA in Winnemac Park so that our community dogs can have a convenient and safe place to exercise, play and socialize legally off-leash. A well-exercised dog is a happy dog and a better neighbor. Moreover, a crowded park is no place for off-leash dogs. Here are some reasons we support Dog Friendly Areas:
Safety – Off-leash dogs can pose a danger for other park users, children and properly leashed dogs when off-leash dogs approach them in a perceived aggressive manner. It also is a safety issue for the off-leash dogs if they run out of the owner’s line of sight, into traffic, etc.
Easy Clean Up – Dog parks keep dog waste concentrated and easier to clean up.
Stronger Community – Dog parks are a meeting place that build deeper neighborhood connections.
Fairness – Some taxpayers do not have kids, but they have dogs. While there are many playgrounds in the area, there are few places where a dog can safely play in a fenced in space.
What are the next steps?
The DFA Committee submitted to the Park District our Initial Application for a new DFA on March 26, 2021. (This "application" is for formal recognition of our Committee, not final approval to build the DFA). Now we wait to hear if we are approved, which we anticipate will take 6 weeks, give or take. While we wait for approval, we are continuing to build our grassroots committee, so that we have a strong team ready to hit the ground running. Developing a DFA is a long process involving much more than just park design and construction, and it is entirely resident led, with no financial or organizing support from the Park District. We need to ensure we have proper community support, funding for the project start to finish, and volunteer and monetary support for ongoing maintenance, before we submit our final proposal.
What is the vision?
We hope to build a space where:
Dogs can safely run and play, without bothering other park visitors
Everyone is welcome and included, dog owners and non-dog owners alike
We reduce our dog's impact on the surrounding environment, and ensure our park remains a beautiful and healthy place for all!
How much will it cost to build? Who is going to pay for it?
Estimated costs of developing Dog Friendly Areas (DFA) can range from $200K-$500K depending on size, materials, amenities, and location of a water source. We intend to build a DFA that is safe for our dogs to run and play in while being integrated into the beautiful surroundings of Winnemac Park. We anticipate the cost to achieve these goals will be towards the higher end of the range. We are very grateful to have secured $100K from the 40th Ward Peoples’ Budget. We recognize that this means we have strong support from the community, and we intend to use this funding wisely. The remaining funds will be achieved through fundraising and private donations. We invite you to donate. As we progress through the planning process, we will communicate our anticipated costs and fundraising goals in greater detail.
What are the requirements for use of a DFA?
The Chicago Park District requires a permit (comes in the form of a dog tag) to use any of its DFAs, including the Foster/Montrose beach area. The annual cost of the permit is $10, and can be obtained from participating veterinarians. The purpose of the permit is to protect the individuals and dogs using the DFAs by ensuring that all dogs visiting the park are properly vaccinated. The CPD requirements can be found here.
Will other areas of the park become off limits to dogs once the dog park is built?
While we anticipate that the DFA will decrease the overall number of off-leash dogs that park visitors encounter elsewhere in the park, the development of the dog park will not change the parks’ rules, the city’s leash laws, or the city’s enforcement priorities. Owners will have the same choices they now have as to how they and their pets use the park. Please note that the Chicago Park District does not allow dogs on its playgrounds or on its tennis courts. City ordinances also require dogs to be leashed and for owners to pick up after their dogs. Enforcement of these ordinances is the responsibility of Chicago Police; neither the Chicago Park District nor the DFA Committee can issue tickets.
Who is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the dog park?
The DFA Committee will have ongoing responsibilities to assist in the maintenance and cleanup of the DFA. As a volunteer organization, we will rely on the assistance of those who use the park to help keep it in good shape for all. Dog owners are still responsible for picking up after their pets within the dog park. As we progress through the planning process, we will provide a full schedule for regular clean-up and maintenance. All will be welcome and encouraged to pitch in! In our initial efforts, we are very pleased with the overwhelming support compared to other DFA efforts in the city. We are confident that we will have strong volunteer support for years to come, and as we go forward, are striving to build solid volunteer coordination infrastructure, and plan for effective eventual leadership transition.
How will the Dog Park affect the beautiful natural surroundings of Winnemac Park?
The members of the Committee are committed to maintain the integrity of the natural beauty of Winnemac Park. This is what has motivated many of us to be on the DFA committee. We will, of course, be balancing this goal with a budget, which is why our fundraising target will be towards the higher end of the budget range. In our initial efforts, we are very pleased with the overwhelming support compared to other DFA efforts in the city. We are confident that we will have strong monetary support to accomplish these goals:
1. Tree canopy. It is our intention to work around existing trees, incorporating them into the landscape of the DFA, as many of the newer DFAs have been able to do. The area we are targeting has fewer trees, so we are hopeful that root systems will not be too extensive or damaged. We also intend to replace any trees that need to be removed due to the construction either within the DFA or elsewhere within the park.
2. Hard surface rule, and loss of grass. We were hopeful that we might be able to maintain the grass surface that is preferred by most dog owners as well as other users of the park. Unfortunately, the Park District requires a “hard surface” to be installed to allow for proper maintenance and cleanliness. This design is also intended to allow for proper drainage to eliminate damage to the surrounding environment. As has proven to be the case at Horner Park, in a city as densely populated with dog owners as is Chicago, grass surface dog parks can quickly turn to mud, which risks mixing with excrement, and spreading illnesses, should owners not pick up after their dogs. The term “hard surface” can mean one of many materials that will be safe and comfortable for our dogs, as well as friendly to the environment surrounding it, such as turf or pea gravel. We intend to steer clear of asphalt and concrete surfaces.
3. Prairie maintenance. We intend to work with the Park District and those maintaining the natural prairies within the park to incorporate natural foliage, such as tall prairie grasses, in and around the DFA, to integrate it into the natural surroundings as much as possible. We also intend to partner with local landscape businesses and recruit volunteers with experience and knowledge to help us maintain these features.
Are there any rules for the DFAs?
Dogs must be healthy and supervised by their owners. Owners must supervise their dogs at all times and clean up after them. Owners must pick up after their dogs! The DFA Committee will maintain dog waste bag dispensers at the DFA, and there are several trash receptacles within the park.
Will there be a separate area for small dogs?
Based upon the feedback we have already received from community members, this is our goal. Having multiple options for dogs who need some space, including a dedicated area for smaller dogs, leads to a safer experience for all dogs. Our budget will include costs to portion off a part of the existing dog park with fencing to separate the big dogs from the small dogs. This will require increased fundraising.
Are all dogs allowed in the park?
Yes and No. All dog breeds are allowed in the park. However, any dog with a known history of aggression or that exhibits dangerous behavior is prohibited from using the park. Please note, that if your perfectly social dog is having an “off” day, be aware of the signals your dog provides, and remove him/her and try again another day. We recommend that all dog owners learn some basics of dog communication, and about some of the common problems that can occur in the dog park setting, so that they can intervene and ensure a safe and positive experience.
Do dogs need to be neutered or spayed?
No. Intact male and female dogs are allowed to use the park. One exception: female dogs in heat are prohibited from using the park.
Can puppies use the park?
Puppies 4 months and older are allowed to use the park if properly vaccinated. Please keep an extra eye on puppies as they are still learning commands and socialization skills.
How many dogs can I bring to the park?
There is a strict limit of three dogs per adult. It is too difficult to watch over, control and clean up after more than three dogs. Got more than three dogs? Bring a friend to help! Professional dog walkers with more than three dogs are expressly prohibited.
Please bring only appropriate toys and take them with you when you leave. Toys that are left behind may deteriorate to a point where they create a danger to other dogs and smaller toys may be accidentally swallowed by larger dogs. We understand that sometimes people leave toys thinking that they may be fun for other dogs to play with, and while we appreciate the sentiment, we kindly request that you not do that. Also, if you see broken toys or trash in the dog park while you are there, please help out and throw them away. The dog park is truly a community space where we have to rely on one another to keep it clean. Thanks!
Can I bring food into the park?
No. Human and dog food are both prohibited. Most dogs are highly food motivated and bringing food into a dog park is just asking for trouble. Dogs will beg, steal and fight over food. This means no feeding dogs or bringing in treats. If you are so inclined, you are welcome to enjoy a private picnic with your leashed dog elsewhere in the park.
Can I bring kiddos to the park?
Children under 12 are not allowed in the DFA without a parent or guardian, and younger children must be very closely supervised. This is both for their own safety and that of the dogs.
Can I smoke in the park?
The Chicago Park District does not allow smoking on any Chicago Park District property, including Dog Friendly Areas.
What happens if there is an incident that needs reporting in the park?
Chicago Park District Security can be reached at 312.747.2193. The Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control is in charge of enforcing DFA Rules and Regulations and can be reached at 708.974.6140. For non-emergency reports you can also call 311.
What can I do to help the DFA?
Join the Winnemac Park DFA Committee.
This is a variable commitment that includes smaller roles such as occasional volunteering for fundraising events, cleanups, canvassing, and other opportunities, as well as larger roles such as ongoing participation in topic-focused subcommittees.
Sign our petition to show your support.
Donate to the DFA.
Complete our community feedback survey to share your hopes and concerns on the DFA and other neighborhood dog-related issues.
How can I contact the DFA Committee if I have questions or concerns?
See our contact page to reach out with specific questions, or fill out our Community Feedback Survey to share wishes, hopes and concerns.
Please be mindful that we are at the beginning of a long process. The information provided here is subject to change in response to comments and concerns from the Park District and/or the community as we move forward. We will do our best to keep you updated.