For years and years, local dogs have enjoyed romping along many of the off-leash trails in this park, swimming in the creek, and meeting up with other pups like themselves and now suddenly all of that is going to be taken from them. Just because they anticipate that the park will soon be overflowing with children attending the nature center. A nature center located just a few feet from a parking lot which is located at a different entrance than the one the dog owners use.
Based on my experience of visiting nature centers while living in Illinois, nobody really uses the trails surrounding them. Typically mom and dad pull into the nature center parking lot, trudge the few feet up to the entrance of the center, walk in, look around at the stuffed animals tacked onto boards, look out the windows at the bird feeding station, trudge back to the car and call it a day spent in nature.
By comparison, dog owners come to use the trails. They love the out-of-doors and understand that their dogs have a huge need to spend time running free in the wild. No amount of walking a dog on a leash will accomplish what an off-leash experience can. I know my dog can only go a few days without running off-leash before starting to go stir crazy, needing to let off steam. I believe many of the problems people have with their dogs could be avoided by simply allowing them to have a good run every few days.
So why take the park away from the dogs entirely? Why take away the community created by dogs and their owners enjoying the park and each other? Isn't that part of the mission of parks...to create places outdoors to be in community with one another? I certainly understand the need for children to spend time outdoors too and welcome any opportunities to encourage that long forgotten pastime, it's just I don't think dogs should have to pay the price to make it happen.
How about allowing dogs in the early morning and evening when the nature center would be closed? A simple solution I think. Lets provide opportunities for all of us to get out and enjoy our local trails and not exclude some at the expense of another. Both children and dogs need time spent in the natural world, free and unfettered.