There is only one dog park in the south side of Chicago – and it was built on a series of abandoned tennis courts.
Todd Agosto, who is the proud owner of Charlie the German shepherd and a young pit bull named Noah, is the mastermind behind Jackson Bark: the beloved DIY dog park in Jackson Park.
“It all came out of pocket, but with over 90% of the materials being salvaged from leftover construction projects in the surrounding neighborhoods, I managed to get by with a shoe-string budget,” Agosto told Good News Network.
While the project is technically illegal because it is not registered with the city, Jackson Bark’s popularity has kept it safe from bureaucratic interference.
“A few people may see it that way, as an act of trespassing – I prefer to see it as a rescue mission. An attempt to bring our grandparents’ tax dollars that were once long ago spent on a recreational public space, back into use,” explained the Woodlawn resident.
“As for the park district looking the other way, it could be a matter of simply saving face. To shut down the only dog park on the south side of the city, which also happens to be regarded as one of the best, would most likely be a bad PR move.”
With over 100 pieces of equipment across two play areas, Jackson Bark has become the largest 100% enclosed dog parks in Chicago. In addition to being the only dog park where canines can play after dark (JBark is open from 8AM to 11PM) it is also maintained by a team of local volunteers for free.
Unfortunately, Jackson Bark may be in danger during the days to come – the Chicago parks department is discussing the possibility of demolishing the tennis courts in order to build a public golf course that was designed by Tiger Woods. The courts would be replaced in favor of a 300-yard extension to the driving range.
Agosto hopes that by raising awareness of Jackson Bark’s place in the community, the city might reconsider demolishing the park.
“Before building JBark, I used to go to a different dog park every day and I grew a deeper appreciation and understanding of how valuable a dog park can be – not only for our pups but for pup-parents and the community as a whole.”
“I hear stories all the time about people living on the same block as each other or working/studying at the same university, but never met until coming to JBark.”
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Reprint (Photo by Melissa McMillan)