A day at a dog park is a tail-wagging, tongue-hanging-in-the-breeze sort of day for a dog.
When McHenry City Administrator Derik Morefield brings his pug beagle mix Ellie to the new McBark Park in McHenry about once a week, she transforms.
“She weighs about 25 pounds,” Morefield said. “She thinks she’s a 100-pound Husky when she’s out there.”
The dog park is the place to be – for both the dogs and their owners.
Often on residents’ wish lists, dog parks are in high demand in communities throughout McHenry County, where two new parks hosted grand openings in the past couple of months.
Joining Hound Town Dog Park in Crystal Lake and Bark Park in Lake in the Hills are McHenry’s roughly 4-acre McBark Park, near Kohl’s Department Store on Route 31, and the new 7-acre Bull Valley Dog Park.
The concept behind them is simple.
“To be able to have a spot like that where they can run around in is fun,” Morefield said.
“Not everybody has a 3- to 5-acre yard that’s contained with a fence where they can let their dog run,” he said. “Besides the exercise component, it allows social interaction with other dogs.”
Fast-paced, jumpy and often sloppy interaction.
Linda Durbin’s 6-year-old Nilla, a mixed breed, has gone almost daily to Bull Valley’s new park, at the corner of Country Club and Bull Valley roads.
Unless it’s wet, said Durbin of Woodstock. Before Bull Valley’s park opened, Durbin would go to the Lake in the Hills park, but not as often because of the distance.
“It’s just so she can run free and have fun for a while,” Durbin said. “After we go, she’s much better behaved.
“I think it’s great. It gives people a chance to let their dogs loose to run and play. When you live in town, you don’t always have the space to do that.”
Like McHenry, Bull Valley added its park late last year, but hosted a grand opening when the weather turned warmer this year. Bull Valley celebrated its park in early May, while McHenry hosted an event in late April.
Both openings drew hundreds of pet owners and their frolicking dogs.
PLANIT NORTHWEST: Find more things to do around McHenry County.
“It seems like everyone needs one now,” Bull Valley Trustee Emily Berendt said of the dog park demand. “Or they can come to ours.”
As the liaison to the village’s parks department, Berendt headed up the efforts to bring a dog park to town. She’s not a dog owner herself, but has seen firsthand how much people enjoy them.
And from a town’s standpoint, they don’t have to be elaborate.
“It’s basically just a field with a fence around it,” Berendt said. “We’re hoping eventually to get some toys and equipment in there for dogs.”
Bull Valley’s park came about through an agreement with the City of Woodstock, which contributed funds to put up fences and such. Because of this, Woodstock’s residents pay the Bull Valley resident rate of $65 for an annual permit. Nonresidents pay $130.
The plan was to harvest and sell off enough hay on the roughly 51 acres of savanna and farmland where the park sits to create the dog park, but a $10,000 Green Region grant came through as the needed start-up money, Berendt said.
“The whole point is to make it as self-sufficient as possible,” she said.
Those who want to use the park are asked to buy the permits, which basically gives them stickers for their cars, and the park can be accessed at any time.
“It’s on the honor system,” Berendt said.
So far, the village has sold about 90 permits.
“We’re getting good feedback,” Berendt said. “People are liking it.”
In McHenry, a sponsorship by Gary Lang Subaru allowed the city to cut the dog park fees substantially. Originally, residents paid $75 for an annual pass, while nonresidents paid $125.
With Gary Lang Subaru providing $15,000 a year for park upkeep, starting Sept. 1, the annual fees will be reduced to $15 for residents and $25 for nonresidents. They also must pay a $10 fee for each additional dog.
Along with space to run, McBark Park provides water fountains for both humans and canines, waste bag dispensers, a gazebo shelter and a portable toilet, Morefield said.
Along with showing proof of vaccinations, users are asked to take their dogs out if any aggressive behavior is shown.
“The dog should be responsive to its name, so that if something starts to happen, you can call your dog,” Morefield said. “Obviously, the humans have to be on site so they can police their behavior. ... If it’s a bad situation, you either have to take your dog out or we’ll ask you to not be a part of the park.”
So far, so good, he said.
Same goes for Bull Valley.
“Most people clean up after their dog, which is great,” Durbin said. “I think more people need to join. It benefits the dogs and the people.”