Reston Dog Park Neighbors File Court Order Asking For Shutdown

by Karen Goff March 12, 2014 at 9:00 am 4,518 38 Comments

A group of residents of Reston’s Longwood Grove neighborhood has filed an injunction to shut down Baron Cameron Park’s Dog Park.

The dog park, which is open during daylight hours, is the only off-leash dog run in Reston. The neighbors filed the preliminary injunction last week in Fairfax County Circuit Court, saying the park “constitutes a private nuisance.”

“The dog park noise, mainly from unruly dogs barking and fighting, has grown to intolerable levels over the last two years and is likely to become even more severe in the spring and summer months,” says the court document.

The neighbors — named in the injunction as Moira Callaghan, Carrie Sawicki, Robert Sawicki, David Okerson, Barbara Okerson, Judith Strother and Kris Capps — say the noise begins at 5:30 a.m. and continues through the day and evening.

“On its worst days, the noise is incessant,” the document states. “The nuisance noise at the dog park disrupts the Longwood Grove Plaintiffs’ reasonable use and enjoyment of their properties.”

There are 100 homes in the Longwood Grove subdivision, but the complaint was brought by seven individuals representing five households.  A member of the plaintiff group declined to be interviewed for this article, as did Zachary Williams, the plaintiffs’ attorney.

In the complaint, it states that the Longwood Grove homes are 300-400 feet from the dog park. However, Wiehle Avenue, a busy, four-lane main road, along with a buffer of trees and a noise-reducing fence, separate the homes from the park.

Baron Cameron Park is owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority, which is named in the injunction.

Fairfax County Park Authority Board Chair Bill Bouie says the county has listened to the affected residents and installed the noise-reducing fencing. He also said the county has done its own tests and found no measurable noise coming from the park.

“The traffic noise on Wiehle is louder than the dog noise,” said Bouie.

The recent Reston Master Plan revision says that an average of 41,000 cars travel through the intersection of Wiehle Avenue and Baron Cameron daily.

Also named in the injunction is Reston Dogs, a volunteer organization that organizes and operates the dog park.

“We obviously don’t agree with the facts as stated from the five families bringing the case, however, we take all of our neighbors perceptions about noise seriously,” said Tom Krasselt, a representative of Reston Dogs. He says that dog park users are respectful of one another and are quick to remove their pets if the barking gets out of control.

Krasselt says the dog park has been in Baron Cameron Park since 1991, a few years before the Longwood Grove homes were built.

The injunction cites several previous Virginia rulings dealing with the definition of a nuisance. It claims the plaintiffs are likely to suffer “irreparable harm  from the dogs barking and fighting in the dog park in the summer of 2014 as this case proceeds” and have no legal remedy other to quiet the noise other than to ask for an injunction to shut down the park.

The injunction says that several of the plaintiffs suffer from lack of sleep and extreme stress.

Baron Cameron is about to embark on changes in a new master plan process. There are two visions for the improved park, both of which include a dog park. However, one of the plans includes moving the dog area farther into the 68-acre park’s interior in order to make way for a large indoor pool and recreation center and additional parking.

There will be a public meeting on the Baron Cameron Park Master Plan process on March 27 at 7 p.m. at Buzz Aldrin Elementary School.

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