After years of searching and a prompt by the Department of Justice, the south end of has become the leading candidate to be turned into Highland Park's second dog park.
The Board of Commissioners of the unanimously approved a $9,640 engineering study at its meeting last Thursday to help determine if the Park District can obtain the variance it needs from the county to proceed at the Fink location.
Dog owners have long been able to take their pets to the in northern Highland Park. A group has also been working with the Park District to find an additional location large enough for the necessary fences for a dog park.
While they were searching, a Highland Park resident filed a complaint with the United States Department of Justice alleging the Moraine facility was not accessible to people with disabilities, a violation of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
“The Department of Justice review requires the Park District to make the park handicap accessible,” Director of Planning and Projects Rick Stumpf said. “They are being creative with us and we’re working on it.”
The complaint prompted Stumpf to accelerate the process. Working with the task force, both Fink and Sleepy Hollow Park in northern Highland Park were identified as suitable locations. Sleepy Hollow was ruled out because it sits in a flood way.
"We’re confident Fink Park can get the variance we need (from Lake County),” Stumpf said. “We can get the water to flow around (the fences) and the county feels it will work. No residents would be impacted by the alteration of the floodway.”
Park District Executive Director made it clear Moraine would remain open and the new facility would be a complement. She also stressed the Fink Park site could be provisional until a long term handicap accessible location is found.
“This is a temporary site until we acquire a permanent location,” McElory said. “We have to do this now. We don’t have a choice."
said the Park Board would do what is necessary to avoid litigation with the federal government over the issue.
“Our permanent dog beach is not accessible under the ADA,” Meyers said. “It is not a question of whether we will do this but when.”
A group of at least six dog owners who have been working with the Park District were at the meeting. They were pleased the Fink Park location would finally give them the facility they've sought.
Other park district news
In other matters, the board heard from its independent auditor, Ron Amen of Lauderbach and Amen, who presented the annual Comprehensive Annual Financial Report which showed the Park District was in a solid fiscal condition.
The Park Board also approved the Highland Park Aquatics Club (HPAC) as an official affiliate putting it on an equal footing with the long standing Coho Swim Club. Both groups work in conjunction with the Park District to develop swimming programs from beginners to advanced competition.
Coho has long catered to swimmers from both Highland Park and Deerfield. HPAC consists primarily of Highland Park members.