Residents say DuPage County Forest Preserve ignored survey results for path project

Opposition: Officials chose unwanted, more expensive material for dog park paths

DOWNERS GROVE – DuPage County Forest Preserve officials are moving ahead with a plan to replace turf and woodchip paths at two dog parks with crushed limestone despite a user survey that overwhelmingly rejected the plan.

“We’ve said to the board we don’t want this and we don’t like it,” Downers Grove resident Kathi Taskila said. “And basically they told us [they] don’t care.”

Taskila and several other regular dog parks users have expressed concerns with the crushed limestone, which they say would leave large amounts of white residue on their pets, dog toys, shoes, pants and other clothing.

Work to install the crushed limestone is ongoing at Greene Valley and is planned to begin at Springbrook Prairie next spring.

The Forest Preserve Board approved the project in 2010, but a debate over whether it’s wanted at the Greene Valley and Springbrook Prairie forest preserve dog parks began this winter when Woodridge resident Sharon Bailey gathered 140 petition signatures against the limestone. After her petition, the district ordered a survey.

“I think our tax money could be much better spent on things we actually want,” Bailey said.

In the survey, 69 percent of users responded with a preference for turf, woodchips or a combination of the two. About 25 percent said they wanted a combination of either turf or woodchips with limestone. Only 10.7 percent of survey responders voted for limestone alone. The survey results were listed on the forest preserve’s website.

The crushed limestone is a fine gravel that forms into a semi-hard surface after a rain. The surface is not concrete – a determined dog could still dig through it – but it doesn’t remain loose like pea gravel.

Forest Preserve Director of Land Justin Frederick said he proposed the limestone for the paths. He said it’s used at the forest preserve’s other dog parks and elsewhere in the district because it requires less maintenance.

“We got to a point where we finally had the funds to find us a sustainable, long-term solution,” he said.

Fredrick said employees “constantly” had to add woodchips to the Greene Valley path, and told the board last month that staff recorded 19 trips in the last year to add woodchips.

The forest preserve also says limestone will retain less bacteria and other contaminants than woodchips, although the opponents of the limestone contend that the dust and residue dogs inhale from the limestone will be a bigger health issue.

Bailey also questions why the district would want to spend more than $28,500 to buy limestone for Greene Valley and $45,000 for Springbrook Prairie when the woodchips are a free byproduct of the forest preserve’s own regular maintenance.

The limestone material was bought from Elmhurst-Chicago Stone Co., according to records.

Frederick contended that yearly maintenance for the woodchip paths costs about $1,100. Yearly maintenance for the limestone path would be about half that.

Frederick added that both parks have several acres of grassy areas where dogs can run. If users don’t want to use the walking paths, he said, they don’t have to.

After the survey results were discussed last month, board member Linda Painter motioned to delay the projects until a compromise could be reached. Every other board member voted against her motion, with the exception of Tim Whelan.

“I was more than willing to listen and work for what they wanted, but I got out-voted,” Painter said.

Board members Mary Lou Wehrli and Joseph Cantore represent the two districts containing the parks. Both voted against Painter’s motion.

Cantore was asked by phone why he supported a project rejected by users of the park. He said he would call back with answers to that and other questions but did not return a call as of press time.

Wehrli said the limestone paths are a proven trail surface at other locations.

“I think we’ve got county and national experience that limestone is an appropriate trail surface,” she said.

Board president D. “Dewey” Pierotti did not return phone calls for this story.