The buzz

Preserves We Love: Hammel Woods Dog Park, for its golden memories

A woman poses with her dog at a park.
Public information officer Cindy Cain and her dog, Tucker. (Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

About this series: The Will County forest preserves mean many things to many people, including Forest Preserve District staff. Some of us enjoy the peace and tranquility of a particular preserve, while others among us enjoy the bustling feel of some of our more well-traveled trails. For some, the work we've done in the preserves is meaningful and fulfilling. "Preserves We Love" allows Forest Preserve staff to expound on their favorite preserve and why it's special to them. In this edition, public information officer Cindy Cain tells us why she loves the Hammel Woods Dog Park. 

No matter how deeply he is sleeping or how loudly he is snoring, all I have to do is whisper the words “dog park” to my pup Tucker Joe and he’s suddenly awake, prancing around my feet and sticking to me like glue.

Most times I spell the two words so as not to alert him to an upcoming trek to an off-leash dog park too soon. There is some preparation required before each dog park visit, including grabbing a water bowl and a gallon of water, spreading out a blanket in my car to keep Tucker’s golden hair off my black car seats and grabbing my walking purse for my phone, keys and sunscreen. Once everything is ready, Tucker and I take off for our favorite dog park at Hammel Woods – DuPage River Access in Shorewood. 

As soon as we enter the dog park and I clip off the leash, 75-pound Tucker bolts to greet all the nearby humans. I swear he likes visiting with the people at the dog park as much as the other pooches. Once he has wiggled around the humans, it’s on to sniffing dog butts and the ground. Sniff, sniff, sniff; Tucker takes his time probing the preserve’s tufts of grass with his ample proboscis. 

My favorite part of the outing is seeing Tucker race across a large expanse of grass to fetch a ball or catch up with a pack of pups roaming the grounds. Watching him run is a joyful experience for me. I know he likes to be walked on a leash, too, but nothing beats being free of a tether to explore on his own. 

Hammel Woods Dog Park was the Forest Preserve’s first dog park. At 8.5 acres, the large-dog enclosure is the biggest of the District’s six dog parks. A small-dog enclosure was added in 2018. 

There is something about the large-dog enclosure that invites you to walk with your pup in loops around a stand of trees or cut through the middle for a bit of shade. Four or five laps around the dog park can equal a good number of steps on the Fitbit. 

That is why I love this dog park the most; Tucker gets a good workout, and so do I. Sometimes after a dog park romp we take a cool-down walk on the nearby DuPage River Trail, which is a beautiful paved path in the woods. 

Growing up, we didn’t have dog parks. Your dog was either on a leash, tied to a line in the yard or it escaped to roam the neighborhood. Our childhood dog, Ernie, a small black dog that resembled a fox, was expert at slipping out of the house and hiding so we couldn’t bring him back inside. But dog parks have become extremely popular in recent years, so our dogs don’t have to escape to roam free. 

Visiting a dog park isn’t risk free, so you have to take some precautions. I try to visit dog parks at off-peak times, I keep Tucker away from the gate when new dogs arrive and I stick with him to make sure he doesn’t get caught up in any trouble. I also am a rule follower, so I don my Forest Preserve lanyard and permit and I pick up Tucker's poop, no matter where he deposits it. 

The best visit I ever had to the Hammel Woods Dog Park was also the worst. We arrived after a heavy spring rain. I didn’t realize how soggy the Hammel Woods dog park gets after a big downpour. Tucker immediately found every muddy hole filled with water and jumped in with no hesitation, much to my shock. Two black Labs joined him to roll around in the water. When I saw Tucker’s golden hair matted with mud, the Labs’ owner looked at me and said, “That’s why you get black dogs.” 

For now, I’ll stick with my golden dog, Tucker Joe, and we’ll keep heading to Hammel Woods and its wide-open spaces for outings that provide good exercise and a fun place to interact with other humans and dogs. 

And after each outing, you can almost bet both Tucker and I will be tired enough to take a nap, snore a bit and dream of roaming free at the dog park. 

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