Fairfax County dog park study calls for more facilities and better upkeep

Fairfax County’s final Dog Park Park Study calls for the construction of one new dog park, a timeline to build six more, and a better maintenance plan for existing parks.

After a nearly two-year long process full of surveys, drafts, and feedback, the Fairfax County Park Authority Board of Directors endorsed the final report at a meeting late last month.

The park authority initiated the study in 2019 due to the “abundance” of questions about county dog park operations and expansion, including the “perceived demand” for more parks. Feedback was gathered by surveying more than 4,600 residents.

According to a county press release, the final report will act as a “guiding document” for the county as it plans, designs, maintains, and operates dog parks going forward.

Recommendations in the final report include building at least one new dog park by 2025, though an exact location isn’t specified.

Currently, the county has 13 public dog parks, 11 of which are owned and operated by FCPA. An additional one would meet the needs of the county’s projected population in 2025, according to the park authority’s data.

Although the report doesn’t say exactly where the new park should be built, it suggests that McLean or Lake Fairfax in Reston would be good options due to demand and a lack of existing dog parks.

Park bond funding should be used for the building of the park, the report proposes.

After that dog park is completed, the report says the county should establish a schedule for constructing six more dog parks, which should meet and, even, exceed demand over the next two decades.

It recommends Baileys, Jefferson, and Bull Run planning districts as options for locations.

Existing and planned Fairfax County Park Authority dog parks (via FCPA)

In terms of what those new dog parks should include, survey respondents noted that room for dogs to run, adequate number of trash cans, shade, water spickets, and parking were features most requested by residents.

The report also recommends developing a more thorough plan for park upkeep, including additional and better placement of trash cans, more frequent refilling of waste bag dispensers, and better signage. It says FCPA should encourage volunteer dog park teams to help with this upkeep.

In addition to addressing the state of dog parks countywide, the report makes recommendations for improvements to each individual dog park in that the park authority operates.

Suggested alterations range from converting a hose bib at the Baron Cameron dog park in Reston into a drinking fountain and installing a structure or planting trees to provide shade at Blake Lane in Oakton to redesigning Grist Mill Park in Alexandria to have a separate section for smaller and older dogs.

FCPA estimates that it costs just under $10,000 a year to maintain each dog park.

A draft of the report was first released in early March, which was followed by another public comment period that led the park authority to refine some of its recommendations.

For instance, the initial report suggested replacing the natural grass and dirt surface at Chandon Park in Herndon with crusher fines/washed stone dust, which is easier to maintain. The recommendation in the final report is more measured, saying that a change could be “considered” if the existing surface “causes maintenance or usability issues.”

The final dog park study report will be posted on the county’s website in September.

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