Another peculiar open area that is hidden in plain sight is a nameless park in the South Loop adjacent to National Teachers Academy that is a great, dog-friendly park while it lasts. Located at 55 W. Cermak, the National Teachers Academy is a state-of-the-art school that embodies the quickly-changing Southside of Chicago.
Across the street from the National Teachers Academy is the Hilliard Towers Apartments, a massive retirement community. If the name sounds familiar that would likely because the current home for retirees used to be known as the Raymond Hilliard Homes, one of the most infamous of the Chicago Housing Authority projects. Where police cars used to prowl school buses and students can be found.
The National Teachers Academy teaches low-income students, but Chicago school officials want to convert the complex into a new South Loop high school. Once you visit Park No. 540 you will see why officials want to make better use of the facility. Behind the school, fenced in on three sides by the Stevenson Parkway, Dan Ryan Expressway, and South Dearborn Street, are an artificial turf football field with stands, padded track for running, baseball field, playground, and enough acreage that many local youth leagues use it for soccer, baseball, and football games all year.
It is almost inconceivable, but this park has no name, just a number. Couldn’t they even use a bland and bipartisan name like American Park or Patriotic Park or something? It doesn’t change the experience, but it sure seems odd.
- NOT fenced in:
This is another public park that many local dog owners use, not an enclosed park built just for dogs. That means the fence has many gaps in it for strollers and wheelchairs so if your dog is not good off the leash you want to consider that before visiting.
The best thing about No. 540 is that it is huge. There are so many acres of open running area that youth leagues can have as many as four football games playing simultaneously.
- Remote location:
Regardless of how improved the South Loop is becoming, we feel you should know that there is little else near Park No. 540 except the adjacent school. Businesses have not progressed south of Cermak and Mercy Hospital is only one block away. Residents who live in the South Loop may feel comfortable in the park at any hour of the day, but if you are not from the neighborhood you will likely feel more comfortable visiting during daylight. Police officers often run with their K9 companions there, so don’t be alarmed if you see police cars: they’re there to run with their dogs just like you are. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have an officer nearby. We don’t know of any crimes committed there, but given the remote location, it seems prudent to time your visit or, at the very least, plan ahead.
Technically located at 24th and Federal, Park No. 540 is easily accessible for any direction. If you take the Dan Ryan, get off on the Chinatown exit and head toward Michigan Avenue. Head south on Dearborn and the park occupies the entire open area west of Dearborn from Cermak to the Stevenson Expressway. There is plenty of parking, but the spaces are not marked or paved.
OTHER CHICAGOLAND DOG PARKS:
- Belmont Harbor
- Daniel Webster
- Fermi Labs
- Fred Anderson
- Grant Park Bark Park
- No. 540
- Prairie District
- White Sox Dog Days
- Lake County Forest Preserve Dog Parks
- Duck Farm Dog Park
- Independence Grove Dog Park
- Lakewood Dog Park
- Prairie Wolf Dog Park
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