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More Dog Park Talk, With a Solution to Talk Some More

by Karen Goff March 25, 2016 at 1:30 pm 17 Comments

Sign at dog park at Baron CameronCitizens on both sides of the Reston Dog Park issue spent about two hours speaking to the Reston Association Board of Directors on Thursday. In the end, the RA Board decided to speak some more, suggesting that they further discuss noise complaints and possible mitigation measures with the Fairfax County Park Authority.

That’s because that’s all RA can really do. The off-leash dog area, the only one in Reston, is located in Baron Cameron Park, which is Fairfax County Park Authority land. Reston Association has no authority over the park, RA Attorney Ken Chadwick confirmed at Thursday’s meeting.

Still, some of the residents of Longwood Grove, a development of single-family homes located across Wiehle Avenue from the dog park, said they were seeking RA’s help in their ongoing battle to get the dog park moved.

“We are asking [RA] to stand with us to ask the county to relocate the facility,” said Moira Callaghan, representing the Longwood Grove homeowners. She said RA’s mission is to “look out for [members] property values … and the interest of our homes and our health, safety and welfare.”

Callaghan was among seven individuals who sought legal action to have the park shut down in recent years. That case was dismissed in a Fairfax County court.

She maintained in a presentation to the board Thursday that the barking of dogs at the park “degrades the quality of life” for Longwood Grove residents.

Callaghan also gave a history of the dog park. She pointed out that it was never approved by the Fairfax County Planning Commission, was intended to be temporary, and that many Longwood Grove homeowners purchased their homes prior to the dog park’s opening in 2001. She also said county officials — including the park authority and Fairfax County Police have continually passed the buck in regards to evaluating noise levels and responding to complaints.

“In a span of three months, 70 calls were made to police in 2013,” said Callaghan. “Police and animal control would not intervene.”

“Our concerns are valid,” she said. “Noise can be heard in our home with the doors and windows closed. We have spent years and thousands of dollars. A viable, longterm solution is needed. We conclude the only viable solution is to relocate the dog park.”

Suggested new locations include Lake Fairfax Park, another Fairfax County Park Authority park that is farther away from homes; or any available and appropriate Reston Association land and participate in a land swap with the county.

Neither of those are likely to happen. FCPA Chair Bill Bouie said in a letter to RA that the park authority has no plans to move the dog park. He said the park authority will look into other measures of noise abatement at Baron Cameron.

Some of the suggestions offered by citizens and a representative of Reston Dogs, a nonprofit that for years administered the park, included greater rule enforcement; more separation between big and small dogs; and user fees and registration for better tracking of repeat offenders.

There was lengthy testimony from citizens on both sides of the issue on Thursday.

Jonathan Campbell, a resident of Vantage Hill, spoke poignantly about how adopting a Labrador Retriever after he was injured in a bike accident and confined to a wheelchair has restored some normalcy to his life.

“Baron Cameron Park is the only dog park in the area that is completely wheelchair accessible,” he said. “Going to the dog park gave me a reason to get out and be active. My dog deserves to be active and happy — I can’t keep up with her, but at the dog park I can.”

“I think as a community we should say ‘enough is enough,’ ” he said, pointing out the Longwood Grove residents’ lawsuit, as well as the petition that led to RA’s Thursday discussion. “What is it that affects your quality of life so much about living next to a dog park? At this point, [Longwood Grove] has become more of a nuisance to us dog owners than we could be on them.”

Another resident and dog park user said the issue has become an embarrassment for Reston.

“I feel there are other priorities in our community that need our attention,” she said.

Carrie Sawicki, a Longwood Grove resident of 22 years, said other residents should try and see the issue from the neighborhood’s eyes.

“People have relatively brief experiences at the dog park,” she said. “It is different than the people who live [in Longwood Grove] for 15 years. We hear dogs fighting. We hear owners yelling at dogs. It can be heard from inside my house.”

Baron Cameron Dog Park/file photo

  • El Southie

  • Ming the Merciless

    Is there some way to abate the noise of the constant whining and crying from Longwood Grove? It is degrading the quality of life of everyone in Reston.

    • LakeNewportLady

      Ming for the win!

    • LesAnn620

      Seriously. They’ve tried begging, pleading and attempting to force every possible entity that might be able to take action to change it and have only hit dead ends. Give it up already. WE KNOW. You hate the dog park.

      I live underneath neighbors who have very loud “personal relations” at 6:30 am at least 2-4 times a week (a full 30-60 minutes before my alarm goes off) ruining my sleep and I live above neighbors who have a Pomeranian that loves to bark. I’d love for the owner of the condo above us to kick out her renters and for a quieter animal downstairs but I understand those things are beyond my control. We deal with it, are still nice to our neighbors and eventually we’ll move and the problem will be gone.

      • Mike M

        Three cheers for your upstairs neighbors! (Get up earlier.)

    • Dog Park Lover/ User

      Please note – in their presentation Longwood Grove mentioned they were subject of negative social media posts. It was one of the many bullet points they failed to elaborate on or frame the discussion.

  • Steve

    I hope the Reston Association board sees this for what it is. Having lost at every step, including in court, a group of determined neighbors are seeking to retry their case with the board, which has no jurisdiction over this matter.

    • MeowMeow

      RA should use the potential $55,000 saved from the IPAR donation to fund a noise abatement study.

      • LakeNewportLady

        Or not…why not just save the money? This would be throwing money away just like the art donation.

        • Scott H

          I think you may be missing the TIC nature of her post

          • LakeNewportLady

            Totally missed it lol

      • Steve

        Noise abatement? You mean require the dogs to wear muzzles?

  • James Schaeffer Jr.

    …and of the 70 calls to police, how many were from just one individual????

  • Tammi Petrine

    What has become embarrassing is the absolute lack of empathy for the neighbors of the Baron Cameron Dog Park and Bill Bouie’s statement that there are no plans or funds to move the dog park to a much more appropriate place ALREADY on Lake Fairfax Park’s master plan. This is the SAME Bill Bouie, long term president of the Fairfax Co. Park Authority and a Reston resident, who has denied the Hunter Mill District a fair share for our tax burden: the indoor Rec Center that we have deserved for 50 years. (He even repeatedly told community activists that we would NEVER get one. I guess political pressure on this grossly unfair dictum was enough that we now are supposedly getting one at TCN, date TBD. This is the same BB who apparently had $5 mil to put into upgrades at the Water Mine at Lake Fairfax last year with NO community input but when asked to help rectify the misplacement on now Park Authority land and mismanagement of a serious nuisance for home owners who pay enormous taxes to the county, can’t find a penny.

    In fact, the aggrieved neighbors whom everyone paints as intemperate nitpickers were even willing to pitch in $15K of their own funds to make this state-of-the-art, new dog park, with every feature dog owners want in a spot where there are NO nearby neighbors, a reality. Common sense says that the neighbors have real and constant noise pollution from the Baron Cameron site. Why else would they file suit, become the butt of public ridicule or offer up $15 of private funds? Is there any solution to effective noise abatement at Baron Cameron? How much did the FCPA waste on the ridiculous, tattered tarp that didn’t work for one second? If there were no noise problems, as Bill Bouie has stated on numerous times in this forum and others, why did the Park Authority bother with this obviously flawed remediation? Why did Reston Dogs withdraw as the sponsoring org that was supposed to self-monitor the Baron Cameron site but never did?

    Kudos to RA for trying to mediate between passionate dog owners and the neighbors (many of whom are also dog lovers and owners). A win/win is the best result so let’s work toward that. At this point, we need Supervisor Hudgins to get involved and help the community, with valid concerns on both sides, solve this very solvable problem.

    • Dog Park Lover/ User

      Solvable to you is one solution only: moving the dog park. There is no compromise option. I honestly wish I sympathized with the owners at Longwood Grove but they haven’t helped truly describe their situation to make it real enough for me. Give me an analogy even!

      It’s the way of life in this county, who is happy you are here as a resident paying your large tax bills, focusing attention on increasing the tax base to allow for more tax dollars.

      Unfortunately, modifications are all you can get and RA threw you a lifeline to even give more options to FCPA that perhaps will help, instead as I first mentioned you only want one solution.

      Move the conversation forward or stop reading the comment secrion, it won’t become more flattering overnight.

    • Cary Coryell

      15K for a “state-of-the-art, new dog park”? What world do you live in that 15K would even come CLOSE to covering that? P.S. RestonDogs dissolved because the neighbors were SUING THEM for $15,000–a group of VOLUNTEERS who were doing absolutely everything they could to enforce rules at the park, and more volunteers were being recruited and trained every month–and they couldn’t AFFORD the lawsuit so were legally forced to dissolve and turn over park ownership to the county. Smart move by Longwood Grove neighbors! Used money and lawyers to eradicate the one tool we had to keep control of the park ourselves rather than rely on the county.

  • Andrew I

    I’m glad the board is listening to residents but won’t they see that more and more talk isn’t free – everything comes with a price. They have no jurisdiction here and have no need to address the issue further. Problems can’t be solved and keep everyone happy – the current situation already has the large majority of Reston residents happy, lets just let this be as is.

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