Some feel that Armstrong Park should be left for the kids to play
On any afternoon this summer you can find Mary Aul among the mothers, grandmothers, kids and grandkids at Armstrong Park on 12th Street in South Side.
"People don't think there are kids in the park, but there are," she said. "It's a shame the city doesn't provide more [staff and activities]."
Ms. Aul, among others, is also concerned with the abundance of dogs that come to the park and adjacent ball field, sometimes reaching as many as 30 by her count. The city recently posted the park with signs prohibiting dogs in the park under threat of fines. The signs were stolen or vandalized several days later.
"I grew up on 11th Street and we never brought our dogs down here," she said.
Kim Vetere brings a group of children from the daycare she works for down to the park everyday. She says there was never a problem with dogs in the park before, until last year when a couple of kids in the park were attacked by dogs.
"They don't care if their dogs are aggressive," she said of the pet owners.
Ms. Aul complained that the dog owners often bring their pets to drink out of the water fountain. "Would you let your kid drink out of that fountain after that," she said.
Looking at the spray fountain a group of children were playing in Ms. Aul said the dog owners have been bringing their pets to play in the fountain after running in the park.
While Ms. Vetere went to warn a couple with a dog that they could now face fines if continued to exercise their pet in the field, Ms. Aul said that some owners, if they clean up after their pets at all, they tie the bags of feces to the fence and leave it there.
"The kids are playing over there and they're smelling it. That can't be healthy," she said. "What makes it right for the kids to be around those germs?"
"I don't bathe my dogs in my shower at home," she said. "I've brought down brooms and Clorox to scrub that shower so the kids can play in it."
Ms. Vetere said they come down and pick up trash in the park everyday to keep up with it.
Both of the women want the city to staff the park and provide more services for the children in the neighborhood.
While understanding the city is under a budget crunch, Ms. Aul was puzzled about one thing. "They're sending people down to cut the grass for the dogs to poop. I don't understand how they have the money to do that."
They suggested rotating some of the staff from Ormsby Park to supervise things at Armstrong. With supervision from Citiparks, they say there are enough mothers who bring their kids to the park who would be willing to help out with programs.
"Just clean this park up for the kids," Ms. Aul continued. "We're not asking for a million dollar expansion, just something for the kids."
"One temporary summer person would help," Ms. Vetere said.
Recognizing that the pet owners also want someplace to exercise their pets in South Side, city officials have proposed a "destination" off-leash area for South Side Riverfront Park.
Ken Wolfe, chief of staff for Councilman Bruce Kraus, said Citiparks is looking for funding for the more that $250,000 needed to create the dog park. He said that preliminary plans call for an off-leash park that will incorporate two circle trails, gated fencing, special surfaces and a catch water system to provide drinking water for the dogs.
"It's impossible to get water to the site," he said.
In addition, plans call for adding nine more parking spaces to the park and safety entrances. He said that although the plans technically call for two dog parks in one, they will be able to be used simultaneously such as one side for larger dogs and one side for smaller animals.
Mr. Wolfe said they would like the off-leash area to be a destination park for city residents.
There is no time-table for the project at this time.