Fur flying in dog park competition between Oak Forest, Orland
BY MIKE NOLAN firstname.lastname@example.org June 29, 2012 9:32PM
Updated: August 3, 2012 6:09AM
With neighboring suburbs Orland Park and Oak Forest the only Illinois communities vying for a $100,000 grand prize to build a dog park, the competition for votes has been intense, with the towns Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, among 15 finalists as of Friday.
But an Oak Forest alderman thinks an Orland Park trustee may have crossed the line of friendly competition when she hinted it might be better for the region as a whole if Oak Forest abandoned its bid for the prize money.
Ald. Laura Clemons (1st) said she got a phone call Thursday evening from Orland Trustee Patricia Gira after Gira had contacted PetSafe, the pet supply company sponsoring the nationwide “Bark for your Park” contest. Gira wrote to PetSafe that Orland has “the potential to win this competition,” but that with the village and neighboring Oak Forest going head to head, there was a potential to dilute votes for either community.
Voting in the online contest ends July 31, and you can keep tabs on the leaderboard at www.barkforyourpark.com.
Gira said Friday that she merely asked PetSafe if both communities’ applications could be considered jointly, with the company making the final decision as to which had the “strongest submission.” Gira said she was told by PetSafe that if one town wanted to throw its support to another, that community would have to bow out of the competition, and Gira said she relayed that to Clemons during the phone call.
Clemons said she politely told Gira that Oak Forest had no intention of dropping out. She questioned the timing of Gira’s call, noting that Oak Forest has gained in the standings recently and narrowed the gap with Orland. The alderman said Oak Forest established “mobile” voting sites at the recent Oak Forest Relay for Life, and is also soliciting online votes at Oak Fest.
Gira said she did not “want to antagonize or alienate anyone” by inquiring with PetSafe, and never suggested to Clemons that Oak Forest bow out.
“The letter did imply that, but I did not write that letter; it came from PetSafe,” Gira said.
Along with vote totals, towns in the competition have to show there is land set aside for a dog park, and that the project is endorsed by civic leaders. Communities also have to submit a community spirit video.
Gira noted that PetSafe’s rules also require that the winner of the $100,000 allow nonresidents to use the park at no charge, so should either community emerge the victor, residents of the neighboring suburb would have access to the park.
The officials resisted being catty in boasting who has the edge going into the final leg of voting.
“Oak Forest is going to congratulate whoever wins,” Clemons said.
Gira said she hoped a dog park could be established somewhere near the Orland-Oak Forest area, noting the closest one is in Will County, in the Messenger Woods Nature Preserve in Homer Glen.
“I wish them (Oak Forest) no harm, and I certainly hope it (the winner) comes to Illinois,” she said.