This past Monday despite the shining sun and a bright blue sky, the Forest Park Dog Bark, at Circle Avenue and Lehmer Street, was completely vacant. A white poster, affixed to the black gate with four zip ties provided the explanation. A paragraph, below the large red text, “Dog Park Temporarily Closed,” stated that “Due to the increased risk of canine upper respiratory disease in the Chicagoland area, the Village is taking precautionary steps in temporarily closing its Dog Park to avoid transmission of this virus to our beloved pets.”
According to Tim Gillian, village administrator, the park was closed beginning late last week after discussions with Mayor Anthony Calderone.
“We talked about it in the office toward the middle of last week and determined, with the outbreak and the animal deaths that had occurred so far, it would be prudent to do that.”
Gillian added, “It’s the first time since the park has been opened that we have taken that kind of action.”
Although the park closure is unprecedented, Forest Park is not the only community implementing measures to stem the outbreak. According to the Chicago Tribune, dog parks across the city and suburbs are also being shuttered until further notice. However, in neighboring Oak Park, the dog park at Ridgeland Common, Lake Street and Scoville Avenue, remains open.
According to the Forest Park Dog Bark closure sign, the virus spreads similarly to the human flu. The sign also states “Exposure can take place anywhere there is close contact between animals. These locations can be shelters, breeding centers, pet stores, daycares, boarding facilities, groomers and even dog parks.”
Asked when Forest Park residents can expect the park to reopen, Gillian did not provide an exact timeline but explained the village will continue to monitor the situation before making a decision.
Mayor Calderone also addressed the closure during remarks at the April 13 village council meeting. Calderone referred to the closure as “precautionary” and stated, “We will resume normal hours once we get the all-clear from the Cook County Department of Animal Control. Once they tell us that it looks like everything is OK, we will open the park back up.”