Since there has recently been interest in the Winnemac Park Dog Friendly Area (DFA) by new stakeholders, I want to provide some context about how this project came to be, and some clarity about its ongoing development.
From 2019 Participatory Budget Process to Community and DFA Committee
The call for a DFA began in our first year of office (2019) during the Participatory Budgeting process, whereby $100,000 of Menu Money funding was allocated to this project after being supported by neighbor vote. Our office supported this idea because we had been hearing (and continue to hear) neighbors’ complaints about off-leash dog interactions at Winnemac Park, including dog owners utilizing tennis courts as a de facto off-leash dog area. A DFA committee was then formed by neighbors to lead a year-long process as part of the requirements set by the Chicago Park District. That process includes multiple site surveys and community meetings, which occurred over the last 2 years. It also requires the collection of petition signatures of neighbors in the immediate area. They collected around 900 signatures in support from the immediate area by the Park.
The DFA Committee and Opposition
As the DFA committee was having its community meetings and surveys, a group that was against losing green space, called Keep Winnemac Green, was formed and petitioned in opposition. They collected around 600 signatures in opposition.
These conversations coincided with those around a new turf field to support Amundsen’s student athletes. Our office had the idea to utilize Tax Increment Financing(TIF) set-asides to support the turf and DFA improvements as the TIF district closes in 2024, as CPS would not fund the turf improvements and doing so would bring the $100,000 for a DFA back to the menu fund. I communicated this suggestion to the Chicago Park District, with the initial request that the outfield and soccer field also be replaced with turf. The Park District initially opposed expanding the turf because of the greenspace it would take and also because of the cost associated with turf repair. They were concerned that the annual fireworks at Winnemac Park would damage the turf as it had damaged turf at Jordt Stadium in years prior, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.
Chicago Park District Request for Funding (pending approval)
The Chicago Park District, in reviewing possibilities for Winnemac Park, and seeing community support for both the turf field and DFA, made the decision in June to request TIF funding from the city to move forward with the improvements listed.
- Turf Infield for the Baseball Diamond directly west of Amundsen HS
- Draining and Grass field improvements for the outfield and Soccer field west of AHS
- Conversion of the Easternmost Tennis Court to create a Dog Friendly Area
- Upgrading the Westernmost Tennis Court and including pickleball lines
- Repair of nearby walkways and water infrastructure
Pending approval of the request for $2.5M in TIF funding to support the improvements, there will be a request for proposal to identify the design, planning, and build team to begin and complete the project. It is expected that the Chicago Park District will receive a determination sometime in the Fall of 2022.
Please reach out to Winnemac Park staff folks closer to that time to learn about public comment and community engagement opportunities.