Dogs remain canes non grata in most Hinsdale parks after the Village Board Tuesday night failed to approve a proposal that would have allowed canines in parks on leashes up to 10 feet in length.
The only village park that dogs are allowed in is Katherine Legge Memorial, and then only in a specified area at specified times. The Park and Recreation Commission had recommended allowing dogs in other village parks, provided they were on a leash and not in picnic areas, playgrounds or athletic fields in use. This was a reversal of a January decision by the commission not to pursue changing the village ordinance, but only five of the nine commission members were present at that meeting.
The clarity of the restrictions in an amended ordinance was called into question by some trustees.
“I think liberalizing this policy just creates more confusion,” said Kim Angelo, who was joined in voting against the proposal by Doug Geoga and Village President Tom Cauley.
Three trustees voted in favor of the idea—Laura LaPlaca, Bob Saigh and Bob Schultz. Four votes were needed to pass the measure, and since Trustee Cindy Williams was not present at the meeting, Cauley was called upon to vote.
More dogs, more danger?
Before casting his vote, Cauley had said he had struggled with the issue, and was concerned that it might lead to a lot more dogs in the parks.
“I don’t think we know how this would impact use of the parks,” he said. “It may add some incremental danger.”
“We’ve had a number of dog bites that have occurred in the parks,” Hinsdale Police Chief Brad Bloom told the board.
He said four instances had been documented since Jan. 1, 2010. Three of these were at KLM Park. The victims were a jogger, a cross-country skier and another dog. The other occurred at Dietz Park, when a dog not on a leash bit a 6-year-old child at the playground.
“I would not feel comfortable allowing dogs in the park without a leash,” Bloom said. “I feel a little more comfortable restricting the area where dogs can be.”
But Bloom fell short of endorsing the idea.
“I’m always going to recommend the safest course of action,” he said. “Bringing dogs into the park does bring some risk into the park. Dogs do bite when they’re leashed. Sometimes they’re more apt to bite when they’re on a leash because they can’t escape.”
Who are the parks for?
Geoga said when he framed the issue with that question in mind, he could not support relaxing the village’s restrictions against dogs in the parks.
“I thought parks were provided for people,” Hinsdale resident Glen Bjorkman said when offered a chance to address the board on the issue.
Bjorkman said he’s been a jogger in the parks for 30 years and also uses the cross-country ski trails at KLM.
“They trample all over the ski trails,” he said of the dogs that use the park.
Schultz, a long-time proponent of allowing dogs in parks, said dog owners generally are responsible.
“I think the people that cause the problems aren’t going to abide by the law anyway,” he said.
He said all of the communities surrounding Hinsdale allow dogs in parks, including Clarendon Hills, Burr Ridge and Western Springs.
Observing that tolerance always has been a hallmark of Hinsdale, Saigh said the village would find out pretty quickly if the amended ordinance was creating any problems, suggesting that it then could be quickly reversed.
“This is one of those quality-of-life things a lot of people would understand and appreciate,” he said. “I’d like to try this.”
Schultz moved that the proposal be instituted for a one-year trial period, which LaPlaca indicated was a factor in her ‘yes’ vote.
Although the board split on the issue, discussion was amicable, and Saigh added a bit of levity by actually voting “woof” during the roll call vote.
The dogs of Hinsdale fell short of the fourth "woof" they needed.