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Lan-Oak Park District wins Outstanding Park Award

Paws ‘n Play Dog Park gets recognized by IPRA

by Melanie Jongsma

CHICAGO, Ill. (February 5, 2020) – At the January 24 awards ceremony at this year’s IAPD/IPRA “Soaring to New Heights” Conference, Lan-Oak Park District won the Division 1 Outstanding Park Award for its design and development of the Paws ‘n Play Dog Park at Bock Park in Lansing, Illinois. Park District President Jim Long and Vice President Bob Tropp accepted the award.

Park District Commissioners Bob Tropp (left) and Jim Long accept the Outstanding Park Award from IPRA at a January 24 awards ceremony. (Photo provided)

“The park district significantly changed its direction in the past few years, and it is humbling to be recognized for that work,” said Long. “We are very proud to have brought this award home to the Lansing community.”

Long has served on the Park Board for 25 years, and he does not remember Lan-Oak Park District ever receiving an award recognizing one of the parks they maintain. Though the current park district administrative team has updated many of Lansing’s parks in the past three years, the application for the Outstanding Park Award includes a long list of qualifying factors, and Long felt the new dog park was the only one to meet all the criteria.

The IAPD/IPRA conference—hosted by the Illinois Association of Park Districts and the Illinois Park and Recreation Association—is the largest state park and recreation conference in the nation. The Awards & Recognition program recognizes the best-of-the-best in Illinois parks, recreation, and conservation.

The Outstanding Park Award is separated into two divisions—Division 1 for park districts with an overall annual budget under $5 million, and Division 2 for park districts with an annual budget more than $5 million. Lan-Oak Park District won in Division 1.

During the design and planning of Paws ‘n Play Dog Park, Sharon Desjardins, Lan-Oak Park District’s Senior Superintendent of Strategy and Operations, specifically requested that Lansing’s dog park not be a rectangle. “Every dog park you see is a plain ol’ rectangle with corners and straight lines,” she said in 2017. “I thought we could make ours a little more interesting.” Desjardins kept the landscaping and design “as natural as possible,” incorporating an existing locust tree and adding plantings and other design elements that are easy to maintain.

dog park
The 2017 plans for the dog park show a space with no straight lines and corners, true to the vision of Sharon Desjardins, Senior Superintendent with the Lan-Oak Park District.

Paws ‘n Play consists of two separate areas for large dogs and small dogs. Both areas have benches, excavated berms, and shade trees. A four-foot fence encloses the play areas, and a computerized access system restricts entry to dogs that have been registered with the Park District. The dog park officially opened in September of 2018, and Desjardins says nearly 100 members joined within the first three months.

Paws ‘n Play Dog Park (17551 Chicago Avenue) officially opened on September 17, 2018, and a Grand Opening ceremony was held on October 13, 2018. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

The Outstanding Park Award will be displayed at the Eisenhower Center, and Desjardins is planning to send a letter of congratulations to all dog park members.

The Eisenhower Center is located at 2550 178th Street in Lansing, Illinois.

Lan-Oak Park District operates from the Eisenhower Center, located at 2550 178th Street in Lansing, Illinois. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)


Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.