Juliet Harrington, a fifth-grade student at Grant-White Elementary School, is asking Forest Parkers and dog lovers everywhere to pitch in as she tries to raise at least $5,000 to improve the village-owned dog park at 632 Circle Ave.
While Forest Park effectively turned over four of its pocket parks to the Park District of Forest Park, leasing them for a symbolic $1 a year, it’s still responsible for the dog park and Veterans Park, 631 Circle Ave. During the April 25 village council meeting, Harrington said she thought that the park “lacked the wow factor” and she wanted to get dog play equipment where dogs could run and climb.
While this was the first time she announced the project publicly, she and her mother, Allison Harrington, have been discussing the plans with the village officials for the past few months. The village made a commitment to not only dedicate the donations exclusively to dog park improvements, but to run the dog park equipment options by the Harringtons before putting it in.
Allison Harrington told the Review that, after her daughter lost a class president election, “she decided that she really wanted to do something to make a difference in the community” and she wanted it to be “a change that she could see.”
While Juliet Harrington doesn’t currently own a dog, she told the village council that she loves dogs, so she was invested in the village dog park
“We drive by the dog park daily, and it would really bother [Juliet] that it was such a ‘boring mud bucket,’ so she decided to make the dog park her project,” Allison told the Review. “She did research on dog equipment to identify what she thought would be the easiest items to maintain, things that the most types of dogs could use and a realistic cost that she could raise.”
Juliet put that research in a Power Point presentation, and her mother reached out to Commissioner of Public Property Jessica Voogd, whose duties include oversight of the village-operated parks.
Voogd told the Review that she was impressed with the presentation and Juliet’s interest in serving the community. She and the other village officials had several conversations with the Harringtons, and the village set up a donation option on the bill payment page of the village website.
“All donations made via that selection are marked as such and will be used only for dog park improvements,” Voogd said.
Residents can also leave cash or check donations at village hall. Juliet also said that she planned to do raffles. Allison said that they got a donor who would match every dollar but didn’t elaborate any further.
“I’m really proud of the initiative that Juliet has shown in this and her taking action to change things in her community that bother her,” she said.
Voogd said the village is in the process of getting the new equipment. The presentation showed tube-like structures dog can run through and raised structures dogs can run up and down on. Since “this is Juliet’s vision and she’s a driving force behind the fundraiser,” the village wanted to make sure she approves what they buy.
“Public Works Director [Sal] Stella has been in contact with a local dog park equipment vendor and received estimates for items referenced in Juliet’s proposal,” Voogd said. “I have sent those options to the Harringtons and we are awaiting their feedback.”
The commissioner said she hopes that Juliet’s fundraiser would inspire others.
“I want to say that it is just wonderful to see young people looking to get involved with their community,” Voogd said. “Juliet’s initiative, hard work, and kindness are impressive. I am thrilled to do what I can to encourage civic engagement such as this.”
You can help
To donate online, click on the “Make a Dog Park Donation” link at www.forestpark.net/dfp/payments/