Fence work at Winnetka dog beach quickly shut down
When constructing a fence, it’s important to follow directions. The Winnetka Park District recently skipped a step — or three.
The district halted work on fencing for two sides of Centennial dog beach after receiving on Jan. 20 a stop work order from the Village of Winnetka, one of three entities that must approve fence work at that location.
The topic took center stage at the Winnetka Park Board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 26, when park officials explained the dilemma and detailed next steps.
The Centennial dog beach is an off-leash dog park, and Executive Director John Peterson said the district was not in compliance with a Cook County ordinance requiring barriers at off-leash dog parks. The Park Board heard about the district’s plans for a temporary fence at previous gatherings, including the Jan. 12 Committee of the Whole meeting.
Construction on the fences, one at the north end and one at the south end of the dog park, began on Jan. 17. Multiple residents and dog-beach users cried foul, some of them notifying local officials with the Village who shut down the project.
A handful of residents attended the Jan. 26 meeting to express disappointment in the fence process, questioning the park district’s communication and motivations for beginning construction so abruptly.
Commissioner Colleen Root joined residents in criticizing the construction, asking if the district received any pressure from dog beach neighbors.
The property immediately to the south of the dog park is owned by the Ishbia family, which is at the center of a controversial property exchange agreement that gives the family a southern strip of Centennial land in exchange for the property they own between Centennial and Elder parks. While the agreement is mutually agreed upon, it has yet to be executed and is the subject of a lawsuit from a Winnetka resident.
During Thursday’s meeting, Peterson and Board President Warren James said the district did not receive a “demand” from any neighbor to build a dog-beach fence; however, Jmes mentioned neighbors as a reason to build the fence.
“We have neighbors on both sides and neighbors with small children on both sides and we can’t ignore it,” he said.
In a followup conversation from The Record, Peterson did not mention the Ishbia family but said the district cannot disregard trespassing laws.
“We are respectful of our requirement to provide recreational opportunities and manage trespassing and related rights that private citizens have,” he said.
Superintendent of Parks Costa Kutulas said the district must secure three permits from three organizations — Village of Winnetka, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — to proceed with the fence work around the dog park.
The Village process involves consideration from Winnetka’s Design Review Board and the one with IDNR includes a 30-day public review period. With that in mind, Peterson said work would not begin on a temporary fence for another 30 to 60 days.
The district decided at the meeting that until a fence is built the dog beach will be an on-leash facility and published the news and topic background on its website.
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319