Keys will be required to enter the Forest Park dog park beginning May 1. | File photo

The village council voted on March 8 to begin issuing keys for the local dog park, sometimes referred to as the Forest Bark Dog Park, at 632 Circle Ave.

Currently, the park is unlocked, and although a license to use it is required by local ordinance and registered dogs should be wearing the village-issued dog tag, rules aren’t often enforced.

Beginning May 1, however, with the expiration of existing licenses on April 30, the park will be locked and accessible only by those who have keys.

The problem with open access to the park, explained Commissioner Jessica Voogd at the March 8 village council meeting, is safety.

“To get these licenses, you have to confirm that your dogs are up to date on all vaccines and that sort of thing,” Voogd said. “So we want to make sure … that we are having only dogs in there that are up to date on shots.”

According to the village ordinance regarding the dog park, keys and licenses to use the park will only be issued for dogs current on rabies shots who have, within the past year, been examined for communicable diseases and vaccinated or have immunity tested for distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus and Bordetella.

Residents pay $10 for their first dog and $2 for each additional dog to use the park. Nonresidents will be charged $50 for their first dog and $5 for each additional dog. A fee of $20 will be charged for replacement of lost keys.

Commissioner Dan Novak, who voted against the ordinance change, said the village should take a harder look at raising the rates.

“I support the dog park and the use of the dog park,” Novak said during the meeting, but added, “I just think we’re not charging enough.”

He asked if case studies had been done on dog parks in surrounding areas to see what was being charged elsewhere and suggested grandfathering in dog park users whose licenses expire on April 30, allowing them to renew ahead of time and lock in the old rates.

Without a proper P&L study or report, including labor and necessary improvements to maintain the park, it’s impossible to determine what costs for dog-park users should be, Novak argued.

Voogd said this first year of keyed access to the park would be a “trial year” to see how many people actually pay for a license and get a key.

“We can get a better sense of how many people are using the space,” Voogd said. “So I feel like it’s on the short-term agenda in the next year or two to revisit what those prices are and see if we need to raise them, but we didn’t want to do that just yet.”