Dogs, their owners celebrate 1st day at new park

May 6, 2019

SYCAMORE – A clear blue sky, 60 degrees and wet snouts welcomed the opening of Sycamore’s first dog park Saturday.

The park, dubbed the Brian Bemis Family Dog Park in recognition of the family’s $100,000 donation in 2016, drew dozens of four-legged friends and their owners to the park just outside the Sycamore Sports Complex.

With its opening, Dan Gibble, executive director of the Sycamore Park District, crossed off another one of seven initiatives by the Park District as a part of Vision 2020. Voters in November 2014 agreed to increase property taxes to cover the cost of a $9 million bond sale to cover much of the cost, along with a $1 million public “Leaf a Legacy” campaign.

“This is always the best part,” Gibble said about the park’s opening. “In this case, it’s not children giggling and having fun, like in our community center; it’s dogs barking and sniffing all sorts of things and having a good time.”

Sycamore residents with one dog can use the park for a $15 annual fee, while others must pay a $20 annual fee. The cost for each additional dog is $5.

A fee of $5 will cover a visit for nonmembers. The park will soon have tall prairie grass and more shaded areas.

Gibble’s 7-year-old Lab-mix named Sly stayed home so that his owner could focus on speaking at the event. The Brian Bemis Family Dog Park was the realization of an idea Sycamore resident Denny Lane had in 2008 after taking his son’s two Labs to a dog park in Rockford.

Lane said he wondered why Sycamore did not have its own park, so he started a dialogue with Sycamore park officials that moved forward after some initial setbacks.  

“I got really disappointed being told ‘no’ so many times because if you just look around at the property of the Park District, we’ve got a lot of land,” Lane said to a crowd of dog owners Saturday.

The project entered the realm of reality three years ago when community demand and donations came pouring in, Gibble said.

“It has to do with dog owners,” Gibble said. “They’re just pretty darn loyal.”

Autumn and Tim Gabrielle of Sycamore, said they had been following the news about the Brian Bemis Family Dog Park since 2016 and were excited to finally give it a try. The Gabrielles brought their 9-year-old terrier-chihuahua mix named Raider.

“We’ve been living in Sycamore now for three years, so it’s a lot easier to come out here than it is to drive to the DeKalb location. So we were really excited when they said they were going to build this area.”

Lane, who admitted he does not own a dog, said the project has changed his mind about having an animal in his life. A black Lab could be in his future, he said.

“This is going to be the pride of northern Illinois dog parks,” Lane said.