RA Dog Park Working Group Has Long List of Fixes for Noise Issue

Dog Park at Baron Cameron ParkReston Association’s Dog Park Working Group has a variety of solutions for keeping the peace at the off-leash area at Baron Cameron Park.

The ideas range from paid monitors to charging fee for users to installing noise mitigation and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements.

The working group, which was formed last spring in response complaints for a group of RA members who live close to the park, will present its recommendations at Thursday’s RA Board meeting.

RA has no jurisdiction over the park, as it is on Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) land. The involvement of RA was to bring both sides together to suggest solutions to the FCPA The RA Board will discuss and vote on one of two motions:

  1. Move to approve, deny, or amend the short and long-term recommendations of the Dog Park Task Force on improving the operation of the Baron Cameron Dog Park for the benefit of the Dog Park users and surrounding neighbors; or
  2. Direct staff to send a letter, outlining Dog Park recommendations and request for a meeting to discuss such recommendations, to the Fairfax County Park Authority Chairs, and copied to the whole Park Authority Board; the Fairfax County Park Authority Director, Sara Baldwin; and Fairfax County Hunter Mill District Supervisor, Catherine M. Hudgins.

It’s a saga that has been going on for several years.

The problem is noise, say many residents of Longwood Grove, a subdivision located across Wiehle Avenue from the dog park. The Longwood Grove residents say they can hear dogs barking at the park day and night, and it is affecting their quality of life.

Most dog park users say the noise is not a problem.

“What is it that affects your quality of life so much about living next to a dog park?” Reston resident and daily dog park user said at Jonathan Campbell said at an RA meeting earlier this year.  “At this point, [Longwood Grove] has become more of a nuisance to us dog owners than we could be on them.”

Over the last five years, affected Longwood Grove residents have complained to the Fairfax County Park Authority and lobbied to get the park moved either to the interior of Baron Cameron or to Lake Fairfax Park. The residents also filed a lawsuit against FCPA and the nonprofit that formerly administered the dog park, asking that the dog park be closed.

Last spring, the Longwood Grove homeowners asked RA for its help. Residents have told RA that they would like to see the dog park moved to 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.

“It does not meet the land use goals of Reston, the park authority or the county,” Moira Callaghan, a Longwood Grove resident who has been active in the fight for quiet, told the RA Board at a February meeting.

“While the park sits on county-owned land, its proximity to RA members [homes] is unacceptable to Longwood Grove residents and should be unacceptable to this board. Nuisance noise should not be permitted or tolerated.”

The working group, comprised of Longwood Grove residents, dog park users, and members of Reston Dogs (which formerly administered the park), says the Fairfax County Park Authority must be made accountable for the “management and maintenance of its facilities including the Baron Cameron Dog Park.”

The group suggests a sending letter to key Park Authority personnel and board of directors members and obtaining Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins’ help to improve responsiveness of Fairfax County Park Authority.

Additionally the group recommends:

Short Term Goals (within the next 3 to 6 months):

Park Improvements to Mitigate Noise:

  • Install a visual barrier between the two sections of the park to reduce interaction between big and little dogs
  • Distribute garbage cans throughout the park rather than having one consolidated garbage can location
  • Provide a new gate door to separate the entrances to the large and small dog areas
  • Provide full-time, paid monitor during dog park hours
  • Charge a Dog Park user fee to pay for the visual barrier and dog park monitor
  • Create incentives for volunteer monitors.

General Park Maintenance:

  • Take down existing mesh barrier along the fence on the Wiehle Avenue side of the park
  • Improve the landscaping
  • Regrade the park floor to improve drainage and increase safety
  • Prioritize park maintenance
  • Repair existing gaps/holes in chain-link fences and gate doors.

ADA Compliance:

  • Install slow-shut gates
  • Add accessible parking to dog park
  • Add accessible pathway from parking lot to the Dog Park

Long Term Goals (within the next 18 months):

  • Identify potential sites for additional dog parks to reduce demand at this location (Reston Association and Fairfax County)
  • Establish specific zoning ordinances for installation of dog parks in Fairfax County
  • Engage a professional licensed acoustical engineer to identify ways to significantly mitigate sound coming from the dog park which might include reducing the dog park’s elevation in conjunction with installation of a berm and solid 10-15 foot wall.

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