A Fairfax County judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against the Fairfax County Park Authority that called for the shutdown of the off-leash dog area at Baron Cameron Park.
In March of 2014, five homeowners who live in Longwood Grove, a subdivision located across Wiehle Avenue from Baron Cameron Park, where the dog park is located, filed suit against the FCPA and a nonprofit group that runs the park, saying the park constitutes a private nuisance.
The complaint cited several previous Virginia rulings dealing with the definition of a nuisance. It claimed 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.
Longwood Grove has about 100 homes. The families that brought the suit live closest to the dog run — about 300-400 feet away.
Fairfax County Park Authority Board Chair Bill Bouie said the case against FCPA was dismissed without merit. The dog park, Reston’s only off-leash area, is operated by the nonprofit Reston Dogs, Inc., which was also named in the lawsuit.
“I am very pleased that the judge ruled in the Park Authority’s favor this valuable amenity in the community has been preserved,” said Bouie. “We will still work to mitigate any issues that are violations with our partners and neighbors.”
Moira Callaghan, speaking for the Longwood plaintiffs, said the group is considering an appeal and the case is not over. She added that the case against Reston Dogs is still pending.
“We are disappointed with the judge’s ruling that our nuisance claim, which the judge acknowledged as valid, could not go forward against the Park Authority,” she said. “However, the case has not been dismissed and Reston Dogs is still a defendant. We are considering an appeal as we feel it is wrong and unfair that the park authority would be given legal immunity from a nuisance that it created and continues to maintain.”
Earlier this year, the Longwood Grove residents submitted a Mastenbrook Grant application to the park authority seeking a grant to move the dog park to Lake Fairfax Park as a solution.
Callaghan said the park authority has not responded to the grant proposal.
“We will continue to work towards a solution to this problem that we feel would be beneficial to the community as whole,” she said in an e-mail. “This was the purpose of our Mastenbrook Grant proposal, under which we offered to contribute $15,000 of our own money to a public project to create a bigger and better dog park that would not adversely affect nearby neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the Park Authority has not yet officially responded to our proposal.”
Mastenbrook Grants are a Park Authority program, founded in 1999, that match funding (up to 50 percent of the total project cost or $20,000 maximum) for park projects. The aim is to fill a gap between limited bond funding and the community’s desire for new neighborhood facilities, according to the park authority.
Baron Cameron Dog Park/file photo