A team of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students and faculty this week kicked off the planning process for a new dog park for Jacksonville, Illinois. Professor Lara Browning from the Office of Recreation and Park Resources will lead a group of students and others in designing the dog park and planning for add-ons. The project will be paid for by $100,000 in grant money as well as any additional funds raised by the Bark Park Initiative of the Jacksonville Park Foundation or contributed to the city.

Your input is needed — use the form at the bottom of this post to submit suggestions and ideas for the new dog park.

Professor Lara Browning of the University of Illinois' Office of Recreation and Park Resources leads students on a tour of the new dog park area.

Professor Lara Browning of the University of Illinois’ Office of Recreation and Park Resources takes notes as she leads students on a tour exploring the site of the future dog park in Jacksonville.

The U of I group started at a meeting of the Jacksonville City Council’s Parks & Lakes Committee, where general outlines and goals of the project were discussed. After the meeting Tuesday November 17, the group went to the future site of the city’s new dog park to get the lay of the land. The student team will collect input from the community, and present the first draft of a plan and designs to the city council (updated — meeting will be 4-6pm Monday February 8, 2016 at City Hall).

Link to see the University of Illinois study proposal. The Jacksonville community won $100,000 in the PetSafe Bark for Your Park contest, with 100% of the funds dedicated towards the new dog park. At the Parks & Lakes committee meeting it was estimated the initial grant will pay for basics (fence, parking, water fountain, signs, walkways and meeting accessibility requirements). The park plan will also lay out designs for future add-ons and improvements to be paid for by donations and any grants obtained. Waverly, Iowa won last year’s PetSafe contest and spent $100,000 plus approximately an additional $20,000 to make their own park covering the basics mentioned above. The U of I study will present plans and fundraising goals for additions to the park, with the goal of designing the best dog park appropriate for the community.

The Jacksonville Park Foundation set up the Bark Park Initiative to raise funds for those add-ons. Follow the committee on Facebook, keep tabs on their events, or make your own contribution to support the effort. Lara Browning is a Landscape Architecture Specialist for the Office of Recreation and Park Resources and has expertise in the planning and design of outdoor recreational spaces, educational and interpretive landscapes, therapeutic gardens, ecological site design, and community-engaged design processes. She previously helped plan and design dog parks at her last position at Virginia Tech.

The pubic is invited to submit ideas and suggestions on the project. What have you seen in other dog parks that you like? What features should the dog park have? What are your concerns that could be mitigated in the plan? The new dog park will be at the site of the old MacMurray Cabin (old Kiwanis Hut), located on East Vandalia Road across from the east entrance to Nichols Park. The site is approximately 3 acres with trees, grass and Mauvaisterre Lake shoreline. Once in the park, dogs can be be off-leash to play and socialize.

Story by Steve Warmowski, Jacksonville Park Foundation