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RA Board Supports Recommendations for Dog Park Improvements

by Karen Goff — July 29, 2016 at 4:20 pm 40 Comments

Playtime at the dog parkReston Association’s Board of Directors said last night it supports recommendations that the Baron Cameron Dog Park should, essentially, clean up its act.

The board voted to send a letter to the Fairfax County Park Authority, which operates Baron Cameron Park, asking for a meeting to discuss issues at the park and the working group’s suggested solutions.

RA members who live near the park, mostly in the Longwood Grove neighborhood, asked for RA’s help earlier this year in what has been an ongoing battle.

While noise complaints have been an issue for years, the working group — which included dog park users as well as Longwood Grove residents — also explained complaints about trash, behavior and the park’s appearance.

“I live in Longwood Grove, but a long way from the dog park,” said At-Large Director Michael Sanio. “I have seen my neighbors struggling with trying to have a voice with the county. What I learned from the working group is that not only were the neighbors unhappy, the dog park users were too.”

The working group held four meetings from March to June of this year. It came up with the following list of recommendations:

SHORT-TERM GOALS (within 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
  • Re-grade 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 the 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- to 15-foot wall.

  • Mike M

    So they decided to have RA buy them new stuff. Cool. Who will pay for it?
    Doh!

    • Ming the Merciless

      Longwood Grove will pay for it, of course!

      They are the only people complaining, they are the only people whose lives will be improved by the “improvements”, so of course they are the only people who should pay for it.

    • JoeInReston

      Did RA sign up to pay for these things? I presumed they supported these recommendations with the intention of having the county paying for it. Why bother being playing the Scrooge role, irritating residents, when you don’t have to do so. Let the county be the bad guy.

      • Mike M

        They will approve and we will pay anyway. Since when is opposing government largess “playing the scrooge?”

      • Ming the Merciless

        Is it even possible to use RA money to do things on County land?

        (Please, please let the answer be no…)

        • John Higgins

          Sorry to deliver the unwanted “yes”. Anyone can make a gift to the county (tax deductible) and specify how it is to be used, as long as nothing is required iin return. The county can reject the gift for a number of reasons, but that’s uncommon.

          • Ming the Merciless

            D’OH!

            Can the RA Board just do that whenever they want, or would another referendum be required?

          • John Higgins

            First, a reminder: no one has proposed that so much as a dime of RA money be spent on improving the dog park. The initial posting in this thread seems to have missed the point that the RA is requesting that the Park Authority make (pay for) improvements.

            Would it require a referendum to authorized the RA board to make a gift of cash to the county? No. The board could do that by including it as a budget line item. If they act between biennial budgets, it can be done as a budget amendment by a two-thirds vote of the directors.

          • Mike M

            Hey John. Original poster here. I don’t think you read my post before interpreting that I missed the point. Are you saying the “improvements” will be free? You remind me of local pols who say they got something at no cost because it will be paid by the state or the feds. None of this stuff will be free. None. I’ll repeat my question: Who pays for it?

          • John Higgins

            Mike, note that I responded to Ming’s question about using RA money at the dog park. Why did he ask that? Perhaps because your posting began with, “So they decided to have RA buy them new stuff.” That’s not what the working group recommended and it’s not what the RA board discussed. It was clear that this is a responsibility of the Park Authority and RA’s involvement is to advocate on behalf of its members.

            Is it therefore “free”? Of course not. Part of the tax we pay goes to the construction, maintenenace and operation of parks. (Also, a significant portion of those costs is paid by user fees.) My take on the issue is that there is no easy or affordable way to eliminate the problem that brought this group together. But while examining it, there was a pretty clear concensus that the park has fallen into disrepair and it falls below the standards the Authority has set for its facilities. Repair it, clean it up, and allocate some of the money that goes to enjoyable parks across the county to one here in Reston. It sounds to me like money that should have been applied to this park has been used elsewhere, and this is a call to re-allocate.

          • Mike M

            The recommendations go beyond maintenance. Some represent substantial improvement. That would be additional cost that would have to “re-allocated” from other places or it would require new funding. So, given the dubiousness of the “problem” I prefer solutions that save money rather than cost more. I suspect the reason the park is not maintained is because the park authority, like so many government institutions, has been pulled in more directions (directed to re-allocate) than it can afford and maintenance and other costs were underestimated for political reasons.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Dogs barking is a problem? Simple fix. Require muzzles. The dogs get to play and the neighbors don’t have to listen to them yap.

    • Mike M

      I prefer abolishing the park instead. Simpler. Cheaper. Second alternative, tell the locals to stuff it. The problem is dubious. My dog plays elsewhere. Since when are Restonians entitled to subsidized dog care on my dime?

      • Greg

        Great idea. Plenty of room for 1400 square-foot, four-story townhouses. Right next door to a fancy school and recently resurfaced four-lane roads.

    • Nyla J.

      Can we use the same solution for the barking neighbors?

      • Chuck Morningwood

        Unfortunately not. Dogs don’t have a Constitutional right to yap; neighbors do, especially when the owner of the park is the County.

  • 30yearsinreston

    “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- to 15-foot wall.”

    Another Bunker!

    • Reston Realist

      Great idea! Though I like your other idea better — move it to the Lake House and let the handful of neighbors who pressured RA buy the $2.6m albatross, listen to the barking.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Ridiculous idea to have paid monitors. Who would these be, county employees? RA employees? What powers would they have? Under whose jurisdiction? Who would make sure they’re doing their jobs – and fairly? Who would be their managers and write their performance reviews? What would the grievance procedure be if they don’t do their jobs or if they abuse their position?

    Ridiculous to charge a fee. It’s a county (dog) park and should be free. We’re not talking Water Mine for Dogs. It’s a fenced open area, mostly, with trash collection spots and a few other small improvements.
    The county should shut down any further discussion of these ideas pronto.

    • qwerty

      Though, Water Mine for Dogs is a *fantastic* idea. I hope someone gets on that!

      • Mike M

        Quick! Let us make a “working group!” Working groups can do anything!

        • Overrunhell

          Why don’t you say that in person, face-to-face, to your neighbors, who volunteer for those working groups. A few actually might be people you think are your friends.

          • Mike M

            My friends work for a living.

      • Arielle in NoVA

        Would be nice to have during our hot summers, wouldn’t it? I’ve seen pictures of some dog parks that have water features and wading areas, but not here.

    • Greg

      We already have paid monitors. They are called cops.

  • Nyla J.

    Leave it to Reston to take a dog park, similar to every other dog park in any other community, and turn it into an over the top, expensive debacle all in the name of pleasing a couple of people who made a mistake buying a home where they did.

    • Guest

      Actually, most neighbors bought their homes long before there was a dog park at BC. g

  • RA wrong again

    Just the fact that a wall is proposed and is agreed upon tells me:

    _ this is not community building
    _ poor fiscal leadership
    _ solution is overkill compared to the actual issue

    If neighbors don’t like the idea of a dog park they can just shut it down with high frequency emissions, it’s that simple.

    Älso, just by the law of.nature – in this case – the animal has fewer rights than the human being so it only makes sense that the needs of the individual be considered first before accommodations for the animal are made.

  • Overrunhell

    Some critical thinking is required here, specifically reading comprehension. The article clearly states in the second sentence:

    ” The board voted to send a letter to the Fairfax County Park Authority, which operates Baron Cameron Park, asking for a meeting to discuss issues at the park and the working group’s suggested solutions.”

    • Mike M

      Oooooh! So free money will be magically available IF the suggestions are approved?

  • RoadApples

    Placating RA dues paying members w/o responsibility.

  • Raykay

    Dear lord. Am I the only one that read that these were RECOMMENDATIONS. I mean. I would recommend that the neighbors move but does it mean it is going to happen?! NO. I mean, if we are recommending things that wont happen, I would also recommend I get higher pay and a pony.

    I don’t know about all of you, but just because I have recommended something, doesn’t mean it will happen.

    • Mike M

      Don’t you wish they would stop RECOMMENDING that we buy more stuff for a very few citizens? I do.

      • Raykay

        Again, I don’t see where anyone recommended the citizens pay. Perhaps you and I are reading different articles.
        The Park Authority has money for park maintenance. Yet, if you go to that park, you will see that the fence has holes in it that the park users have boarded up with gatorade bottles because the park authority wont maintain their own park. I don’t think the citizens should pay. I think the park authority should fix their own parks. That is all.

        • Mike M

          No. Same article. My reading comprehension is A-OK! We can agree that maintenance ought to be built into budgets and buying decisions. But the recommendations are bigger than maintenance. Substantial improvements are recommended.

          My point is: WHO would pay for these recommendations should they be approved? That’s the basis of my point. From whom does the Park authority get their money?

          By the way, I’ve been by that park many times, twice yesterday evening, and I’ve NEVER heard barking. I hear more barking in my own neighborhood.

  • ifoughtpiranhas

    It’s so funny to read how many know-it-alls there are trolling Reston Now articles and dispensing their holier-than-thou wisdom–and insults and judgments–about the Dog Park Working Group and the suggestions we’ve come up with.

    Let me make a few things clear.

    1) No, this particular volunteer committee did NOT “draw the lowest common denominator” and was NOT comprised of a bunch of “busy body users” who “hung the real users out to dry.” The handful of dog park users who comprised the “dog park side” of this working group are the ONLY people who cared enough about SAVING our dog park to actually try and spend our own time and energy to work with these neighbors to try to get them to STOP TRYING TO GET RID OF OUR PARK. We are single-handedly probably the MOST “regular” users of the dog park, and we are actually the OPPOSITE of busy bodies who are trying to ruin it for everybody else. I spend my LIFE opposing busy bodies and detest busy bodies more than pretty much any other kind of person. Of COURSE I think many of these suggestions are ridiculous, are you kidding me?! We were tasked with finding compromises with the neighbors and the reason we did so was FOR THE SAKE OF THE DOG PARK. It is honestly offensive that people sit behind their computer screens and spout off about this issue and about the members of the working group when they literally have NO idea what they’re talking about. Mike M. you know how I know you have no idea what you’re talking about? Because you weren’t at the half dozen meetings we had over this! I didn’t see YOU at any of our open to the public meetings, so shut your mouth. WE are the “real users” of the dog park, and you want to know what 98% of the other dog park users say when we bring this issue up or ask for help? They can’t be bothered and it’s not worth their time to try to fight the neighbors–they assume that the core users–I.E. THE ONES WHO COMPRISED THE DOG PARK SIDE OF THE WORKING GROUP–would handle it. And that’s what we’ve tried to do. We didn’t ask for this task force to be put together, it was a product of us coming to an RA meeting to DEFEND the park from the neighbors’ attacks. We went there to voice our support for the dog park to try to make sure it doesn’t get SHUT DOWN, and the result was a task force formed to come up with suggestions. If we had said “screw you, we don’t want to work with the neighbors to come up with suggestions,” that would only harm US and the DOG PARK in the end. Use your damn brain.

    2) THE RA WAS NOT ASKED TO PAY FOR A DIME. ANY SUGGESTIONS ARE MEANT TO BE PAID FOR BY THE COUNTY. IF THE COUNTY WON’T PAY THEN THEY WON’T HAPPEN. It’s very simple people.

    3) User fees were nixed from the list. The second they came out of someone’s mouth I said it was an unfair and ridiculous suggestion. None of us know why that one somehow got re-added to our final list.

    4) Paid monitors was another NEIGHBOR suggestion. Here’s the thing about a working group that brings together two OPPOSING sides–some suggestions aren’t fully supported by both sides! Here’s the other thing about suggestions–they are SUGGESTIONS. Do any of us really think the county is going to have paid monitors? Excuse my audible laugh.

    5) The Reston Dog Park is in all fairness, NOT like other area dog parks in both its heavy usage–much heavier than most other area parks–and its location. The only dog park in this area that I can think of that has similar heavy usage is Shirlington Dog Park in Arlington, and it’s not near any residential areas. So the concept that maybe this park requires a BIT more attention from the county when it comes to maintenance and monitoring, is NOT ridiculous. Paid staff monitors? Yes.

    6) Cops aren’t monitors. They won’t even come for dog bites. They come if someone gets bitten, and even then they come like 2 hours late. Not saying STAFF monitors are appropriate, but cops aren’t monitors.

    7) What we are asking of the county is to maintain their facility. This is something they are not already doing. If that means additional expenses to tax payers, tax payers need to realize that this expense should’ve ALREADY been factored in. If you build a public park you need to spend what it takes to maintain the park. So this is not a bunch of privileged dog people asking the government for more tax $$. This is a bunch of citizens asking the government to step up and pay for what it should have been paying for this entire time.

    8) The comment about animal rights being inferior to human rights is inane. Let’s make it simple then–do we expect our county to maintain parks that our children use? Or that we use for sports? Yes. So, should we expect our county to maintain parks that we use for the fun and enjoyment of our dogs? Yes. Some people use parks for batting practice, some use parks for playing pick-up soccer, guess what I use my parks for? To play with my dog. I have a right for the parks I use to be maintained equally.

    9) Basically I hope I never meet you in person Mike M. You’re a jerk. WE ALL HAVE JOBS TOO thank you very much. We went to these meetings AFTER OUR JOBS, and it wasn’t exactly pleasant, but we did so in the spirit of community. And again, we are NOT asking YOU to pay for jack shit. We are asking the county to pay for what they should have been paying for all along. I also invite all of you to get off your asses and be apart of these meetings and volunteer your own time so that you can shape the process, rather than sit at your computer and type out all your grand ideas that are so much better than everyone else’s like little wimps.

    10) WE ALL GET IT. THE NEIGHBORS ARE THE PROBLEM, NOT THE DOG PARK. We–the dog park people–have been trying to say that for years. Guess what happened, we got SUED, and the neighbors have tried every avenue they have to get our park shut down. Mike M. maybe your dog plays elsewhere–so does mine, we hike multiple times a week and see other dog friends too–but the park is a staple in our lives and in our community. He goes there and plays with dogs he’s literally grown up with since he was a puppy.It’s the only place I can play fetch with him off leash in Reston and not get a ticket. Some of MY closest friends are at that park and it’s a place for community building and social capital. I’m sorry YOU don’t think enjoying a dog park is worth your tax payers dollars; I don’t think the 5 zillion soccer and baseball fields are worth MINE but I don’t have a choice, do I! Us dog people get this ONE park–ONE PARK–in Reston. We’re simply trying to make sure the neighbors don’t take the ONE park we have away from us.

    • Greg

      “It’s so funny to read how many know-it-alls there are trolling Reston Now articles and dispensing their holier-than-thou wisdom–and insults and judgments…”

      “Basically I hope I never meet you in person Mike M. You’re a jerk.”

      #smh

  • GrumpyOldMan

    More than three dozen responses here on a dog park and virtually no RestonNow commenters give a sh*t that RA just gave away most of 10 acres of open space in Town Center North to soothe the County. The thousands of people who will soon live there and & their dogs will be walking in each others droppings in what’s left of open space there.

  • Greg

    Grow up.

    • ifoughtpiranhas

      ^says the guy who wrote “#smh”

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