Chicago’s Montrose Dog Beach: The History, and The History in the Making

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People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come. Terence Mann, Field of Dreams

In the darkness of early morning, Susan Kimmelman walked the shores of Lake Michigan like Ray walked the cornfield in Field of Dreams. Like Ray, Susan had a dream. Before the city of Chicago woke behind her, Susan and her dog met the sunrise at Montrose Beach. “The beach full of dogs early in the morning is a life-affirming thing,” she wrote. Dogs were not allowed off-leash then, but Susan watched her pup run free and dreamed of a day when dogs could run across the sand in the full light of the sun.

But Susan didn’t just dream. She organized, she advocated, and she worked tirelessly to show the truth of her mantra – “There is enough beach for everyone.” Susan founded the MonDog organization to develop plans for designating the north end of Montrose Beach as an official “Dog Friendly Area.” Tragically, Susan died of a heart-attack in 2001 and did not live to see her dream fulfilled. Brett Batchelder stepped into Susan’s leadership role at MonDog and continued to work with patience and persistence towards the goal of a recognized dog beach.

Brett, along with MonDog board members Rosann Molyneaux, Beth Smith and Camille Witos, got the city to agree to a pilot area on the north end of Montrose Beach. Thanks to the vision and effort of Susan and her MonDog colleagues the beach received official and permanent designation as a “DFA” from the city in 2003.

Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago, Mutt Jackson

In the years since, Susan’s vision of a dog-friendly area prospered and grew into the vibrant community it is today. People and dogs gather at the beach year-round to cherish those life-affirming moments Susan wrote of. This year, Montrose Dog Beach was even voted America’s Best Dog Friendly Beach by USA TODAY.

The best dog beach deserves the best dog-friendly amenities. That’s where Mutt Jackson comes in. This week, we broke ground within the old boat launch leading to the beach. Our new facility which will open in May of next year. We have big plans to develop our space into a full-service stop for you and your pup, but our first order of business this spring is to install the community’s most-requested amenity – a dog wash. Two state-of-the-art self-wash stations, to be exact.

If you’d like to learn more about Montrose Dog Beach, our plans, and our progress, you can follow along here or subscribe to our newsletter. If you have any questions or feedback about our work, we’d love to hear from you.

Mutt Jackson is a passion project led by members of the MonDog community. Our goal is to serve that community as best we can. The more we hear from you, the more we can improve the experience for everyone. Please make sure to check back this spring for updates about community events we’ll be hosting leading up to launch.

There’s a lot of work to be done between now and our first wash. We’re eager to follow Susan’s lead and devote ourselves to turning the dream of the world’s best dog beach into reality. We will build it. Hope you (and your pup!) will come.

Just Love,

The Mutt Jackson Team

Montrose Dog Beach, Mutt Jackson, Chicago