First and foremost, everyone, especially all those involved with Montrose Dog Beach is devastated by the death of the dog who ran away from the Beach. We all love our own dogs and are truly concerned with the wellbeing of all dogs.
We do support any reasonable solutions to the issues of securing the borders of the Dog Friendly Area (DFA). A ballpark estimate from Chicago Park District (CPD) for replacing the entire fence is $38K, if the $4500 removal charge is waved. Annual maintenance would also runs in the tens of thousands of dollars. Any organization formed to collect funds to erect or modify the fences MUST work directly under the auspices of the Chicago Park District.
There are at least 3 governing bodies involved with Montrose DFA. The DFA department of the CPD is responsible for maintaining the grounds. Cook County is responsible for issuing and policing DFA tags for dogs. The city Department of Natural Resources is responsible for collecting trash and maintaining trash receptacles, requiring access to the beach area for their trucks.
MONDOG is not a governing body, but is an advisory group, charged with keeping the DFA clean, providing supplies (dog waste bags) and encouraging compliance with DFA rules. MONDOG is not empowered to ban access to anyone, nor to erect any permanent structures on the beach without working with the Park District. Indeed, no one, other than the governing bodies, is empowered to do so.
Montrose Dog Beach has at least 4 unique issues that set it apart from other DFA’s in the city. Each is a blessing and a challenge.
First, and most importantly for this discussion, Montrose DFA is in a nature area, not a paved inland park. It is blessed with a constantly moving, destructive, natural border namely, Lake Michigan. This border shifts and changes on a daily basis. Two years ago, the sand extended well past the border between the “people beach” and the DFA. CPD extended the fence once this appeared to be permanent. Last year, the lake was much higher, and the fence extension was destroyed by the wave action. The year of Hurricane Sandy, the winds, which reached Chicago from that storm, virtually buried the entire fence. CPD eventually used their heavy earth-moving equipment to dig the fence out, which caused the collapse of the fence, which they replaced in part. The fence is again buried in about a foot of sand. Some years we are inundated by piles of algal bloom, which dogs eat, causing intestinal distress. The next week, it is washed out again. Some days, the entire center of the beach is under water; then a storm reshapes the sand. Any and all solutions to securing the border are temporary until nature finds a way to reshape it, sometimes in hours.
Secondly, beautiful park and picnic areas surround this DFA. This is an incentive for some dogs to find a way to escape to scavenge for food. Likewise, since this DFA is isolated, property damage occurs overnight, for instance the bolts securing access gates disappear and the bag dispensers have been broken into, etc. The Park District and individual users have repaired these incidents when they are noticed.
Thirdly, it is the most frequented DFA in the city. People and their dogs come from all parts of the city and many suburbs, anywhere from once a year to daily. This causes occasional overcrowding, often with untrained and/or poorly socialized dogs and distracted owners.
Finally, people approach the beach from all directions, including using dangerous means to circumvent fences. Especially, when the weather is wet and the primary entrances are flooded, people will try to find any alternate route into the beach such as climbing over fences with their dogs. This teaches dogs how to use these means, and the dogs teach each other.
It is always the dog owner’s responsibility to keep track of their dogs and train them to recall.
Again, the CPD is responsible for maintaining the grounds. If a group wishes to propose a reasonable solution and raise funds to implement it, please contact the DFA department of the CPD.