Baron Cameron Park’s facilities have reopened after a death investigation last week prompted a brief closure.
Fairfax County police received a call around 1 p.m. last Tuesday (Sept. 3) about a dead body, a police spokesperson told Reston Now. Police conducted a death investigation and said that there was no threat to the public.
Judy Pedersen, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Park Authority, told Reston Now that the park’s facilities were closed “for a short time on Friday” in connection with the police investigation.
Pedersen said as of yesterday (Monday) morning that the park’s facilities have now all reopened.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm, call 911 or the Department of Human Services’ emergency services line at 703-527-4077.
The topic was addressed once again at the July meeting of the Reston Association Board of Directors, where CEO Cate Fulkerson was authorized (video) to write a letter to the Fairfax County Park Authority “strongly encouraging” allocating funds to support the a countywide dog park study.
“[The Park Authority has] put it off several times, [and] they really do need to fund that,” Fulkerson said. “There are some issues around dog parks … but also there is a need for such facilities and rules around them. It is becoming evermore a problem for the community and it’s important that they pursue it.”
Reston Association formed a Dog Park Working Group in March 2016 to address concerns of residents in the area around the Baron Cameron dog park, which opened in 2001. Moira Callaghan, one of seven residents who sought legal action in the attempt to close the park, addressed the Board (video) at July’s meeting.
“The dog park at Baron Cameron Park is extremely noisy and has serious negative impacts upon those living closely, including me,” she said. “When dog parks were established, residents were promised the county would get it right. I would like the RA Board to hold the county accountable to this.”
Callaghan, of the adjacent Longwood Grove community, said the sound of dogs barking can often be heard over the sound of cars driving by on Wiehle Avenue. She said she had also called the police eight times in recent weeks to report people using the park before its opening time.
“I have been awakened from my sleep as early at 6:17 and 6:34 a.m. on weekend mornings [in recent weeks],” Callaghan said. “I get dressed, I go outside, I go over there and I take a photo, and I send it to the county.”
According to information provided by RA, the countywide dog park study would help these issues to be addressed and corrected.
In March 2016 the Reston Association Board facilitated a community discussion on the Baron Cameron Dog Park, at the request of local residents. Recommendations developed through the community discussion were forwarded to Fairfax County Park Authority, and a dialogue has continued to take place between the two parties.
Fairfax County Park Authority also proposed a Countywide Dog Park Study to determine needs and set parameters for overall use. Due to staffing vacancies the Study has been on hold for a couple of years. Fairfax County Park Authority staff has confirmed the Study was not included in the draft FY18 Planning and Development Work Plan, but will likely be added to the FY19 Planning and Development Work Plan.
“My neighbors and I have endured this for a very long time. I have carried this torch for four years now,” she said “It is horrible. We would really appreciate your help on this matter.”
Reston Association has created a dog park working group in an effort to bring compromise to the dog park issue that has been, well, dogging Baron Cameron-area residents and dog park users for several years.
The problem, say many residents of Longwood Grove, a subdivision located across Wiehle Avenue from the off-leash area at Baron Cameron Park, is noise. The Longwood Grove residents say they can hear dogs barking at the park day and night and it is affecting their quality of life.
Affected Longwood Grove residents have complained to the Fairfax County Park Authority, which runs the park, and filed a lawsuit against FCPA and the nonprofit that formerly administered the dog park.
This spring, the Longwood Grove homeowners asked RA for its help, even though RA does not have jurisdiction over the county park. 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.
Members of the working group include Longwood Grove residents Carrie Sawicki, Linda Levy and Moira Callaghan; dog park users Barbara & David Okerson, Lee Stokes, Natalie Shanks, Robert Barnett, Heather Lawson, and Gabriel Relva; and former Reston Dogs (the nonprofit that administed the park until last year) members Cary Coryell and Rachel Kranz.
The group will provide the RA Board of Directors by late July a set of community recommendations that the association can convey to the Fairfax County Park Authority on improving the operation of the park.
Reston Association’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to at least listen to and discuss the plight of Longwood Grove homeowners, who say their peace and quiet at home in Reston is being disturbed 365 days a year from a noisy dog park nearby.
While RA can listen to members and discuss the matter with the Fairfax County Park Authority, it likely does not hold any authority as the off-leash dog area sits in Baron Cameron Park, which is owned by the park authority. Read More
The homeowners told RA in a letter/petition on Feb. 1 that it “Despite neighbors’ best efforts to encourage the [Fairfax County] Park Authority to effectively manage and create a sustainable solution for coexistence, we conclude that the only viable option is to close and relocate the dog park.”
The Reston Association Board of Directors will discuss the homeowners’ request its monthly meeting on Thursday and may decide to more formally discuss the matter in March.
It is unclear what, if anything, RA can do about the dog park, which is located in a Fairfax County Park Authority Park and not on Reston Association property.
The issue is not a new one. The dog park has been at Baron Cameron since 2001. The Longwood Grove owners — who are separated from the park by noise-reducing fencing material, four lanes of Wiehle Avenue traffic and several hundred feet — have been bothered by the noise pretty much ever since.
In recent years, the neighbors have asked the park authority to move the off-leash area farther into the park or to shut down the location and move it to Lake Fairfax Park, which has much more separation from private homes.
In March of 2014, five Longwood Grove homeowners filed suit against the FCPA and Reston Dogs, Inc., a nonprofit group that formerly ran the dog area, saying the park constitutes a private nuisance.
The complaint cited several previous Virginia rulings dealing with the definition of a nuisance. It claimed the residents are likely to suffer “irreparable harm from the dogs barking and fighting” and have no legal remedy other to quiet the noise other than to ask for an injunction to shut down the park.
The case was dismissed by a Fairfax County judge in March of 2015.
The recent letter from the Longwood Grove residents to the RA Board says “the negative impact of this park feature on our neighborhood is severe. The barking has created years of ongoing stress: the noise disrupts our sleep, invades peace and quiet of homes throughout the day, and can often be heard after the park has closed.” Read More
When the sun is down, your dog should go home. And you both should sleep in on the weekend.
That is the message from Fairfax County, which has slightly altered the hours of county dog parks to align with the county’s new noise ordinance. The Fairfax County Park Authority says new operating hours will go info effect on Feb. 17.
In the past, operating hours at the county’s off-leash dog parks, including Reston’s location at Baron Cameron Park, were consistent with overall park operating hours, which are dawn to dusk.
The new hours will be 7 a.m. to one half-hour after sunset Monday through Friday. On weekends and federal holidays, the hours will be 8 a.m. to one half-hour after sunset.
All of the county dog parks will have signs posted showing the new operating hours.
After several years of discussion, Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors in November voted on a new ordinance. The new rules provide guidelines on everything from lawn mowers to garbage collection to dogs. Read More
Several residents of the Longwood Grove neighborhood have a new suggestion to quell the noise at the Baron Cameron Park Dog Park — they are seeking a county grant that will pay to move the off-leash area to another Fairfax County Park Authority location.
It has been nearly a year since the group of five Longwood Grove families whose homes are located across four-lane Wiehle Avenue from the dog park filed a lawsuit against the Park Authority.
In it, the plaintiffs called the park, the only off-leash dog run in Reston “a private nuisance” as the “the dog park noise, mainly from unruly dogs barking and fighting, has grown to intolerable levels over the last two years.”
The lawsuit asked for an immediate shutdown of the park. That did not happen.
So in January, the Longwood residents submitted to the Park Authority a Mastenbrook Grant application that seeks to relocate the dog park from its current location to Lake Fairfax Park.
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.
The grants have been used in the past for dog parks, playgrounds, greenhouses, shade gardens and other small improvements desired by civic groups, says the FCPA website.
It would be unprecedented to use grant funds to move a project to another park, said Park Authority Chairman Bill Bouie.
“As you know, a few Longwood Grove residents have been engaged in an ongoing dialogue with Fairfax County Park Authority about the dog park and have spent countless hours trying to resolve the issue to no avail,” one of the Longwood Grove residents said in an email obtained by Reston Now.
“On Jan. 21, Longwood Grove neighbors submitted to the Park Authority a Mastenbrook Grant application that, if approved, would relocate the dog park from its current location to Lake Fairfax. Read More
RCC’s Board of Governors has been discussing since February 2013 the idea of adding a new recreation center with a 50-meter indoor pool.
RCC’s current indoor pool, at Hunters Woods, is more than 35 years old and need of modernization, the board of governors says.
The pros and cons have been debated at a series of sometimes contentious community meetings. A feasibility study by Brailsford & Dunlavey, completed in 2013, said the facility would cost about $30-40 million if RCC built it on land donated by the Fairfax County Park Authority at Baron Cameron Park.
Last June, the park authority approved changes to the Baron Cameron Park Master Plan, incorporating the rec center as a future option at the 68-acre park.
The board is also considering the area known as Town Center North as a potential site.
RCC is not in position to have a referendum this year, Gordon said, because county planning for Town Center North has not been completed.
“The RCC Board of Governors affirmed in its meetings on Jan. 9 and 10 that we continue to pursue the best options for the community to realize both of our facility priorities: an indoor rec center/aquatics facility and a performing arts venue,” said Gordon. “We established with the community and with the county our studies’ outcomes that the only two suitable locations at present to pursue for indoor recreation are Reston Town Center North and Baron Cameron Park.”
“Given that the County’s planning for Reston Town Center North hasn’t concluded yet, we won’t be in a position to put any type of bond referendum question related to either facility on a November, 2015 ballot,” she said.
Gordon also said RCC will “aggressively seek other contributions” to get the facilities built. That money would likely come from developer proffers and partnerships.
The cost of the proposed rec center and concern that residents of Small Tax District 5 (Reston) would have to foot the bill have been among the biggest concerns from residents. Many who live in the Baron Cameron Park area are also concerned about traffic and noise.
It will cost RCC $75,000 to conduct the referendum, which would determine if the community is in favor of building the new facility.
Reston Dogs Inc., the volunteer group that helps maintain the county-run off-leash dog area at Baron Cameron Park, is in the midst of a fundraising effort to help pay for legal expenses related to saving their dog park.
In March, a group of homeowners in the Longwood Grove subdivision filed suit against the Fairfax County Park Authority and Reston Dogs. The injunction calls for the park to be shut down because of excessive noise.
The dog park, which is open during daylight hours, is the only off-leash dog run in Reston. The neighbors that filed the suit in Fairfax County Circuit Court call it a “private nuisance.”
“The dog park noise, mainly from unruly dogs barking and fighting, has grown to intolerable levels over the last two years and is likely to become even more severe in the spring and summer months,” reads the court document.
Reston Dogs Inc. administrators are trying to raise $3,500 to pay for attorney’s fees. The group has retained Reston lawyer Michael Horwatt.
As of Friday morning, the group’s Go Fund Me page has $1,880 in donations.
“If we fail to defend ourselves the case will be won by the plaintiff by default and the dog park will be closed and removed from BC Park,” administrators said in an email to dog park regulars. “Since we certainly do not want this to occur, we have no choice but to defend ourselves. We, the litigation committee for Reston Dogs, have retained an experienced lawyer to represent us, one who actually attends the dog park. …”
“Since the case is about to enter a more intense period of discussion during the next month as we try to find a mutually agreeable solution, this will probably be the most critical month of the lawsuit. What this means is we are in desperate need of an injection of funds totaling about $3,500 during the next month to retain our attorney.” Read More
Or it may stay very much like it is, with garden plots, athletic fields and Reston’s only off-leash dog area.
Two weeks ago, the Fairfax County Park Authority approved a Baron Cameron master plan revision that includes the option for a large indoor recreation space.
Bill Bouie, Chairman of the Fairfax County Park Authority Board, says the approved master plan merely reserves the option to build there.
That doesn’t mean anything necessarily will be built at the 60-acre park.
“A rec center might not happen at all,” he said. “But before this, these was no approved plan in place. What this does is say ‘in Nirvana, when and if we get the money, this what it should look like.’ ”
The park authority board discussed the future plans for Baron Cameron Park for more than a year before voting on the plan. The goal was to update the master plan, which had not been done since 1990. The park has at various times been property of the Fairfax County Public Schools (which at one time was going to build a high school there), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and finally, the Park Authority.
But with Reston population expected to grow with the opening of the Silver Line Metro this summer, the timing was appropriate to look at how Baron Cameron can serve more people in the region. Baron Cameron is designated as a district park, meaning it should have a variety of uses in order to serve a wide variety of needs, said Bouie.
Over the last 18 months, the Reston Community Center has held a series of community meetings and conducted a feasibility study on teaming with the parks authority to build the a 50-meter indoor pool and rec center at Baron Cameron. RCC would build the center on land donated by the park authority.
In 2013, RCC hired consultants Brailsford & Dunlavy for a feasibility study that estimated the rec center with pool would cost about $35 million. Read More
The board voted 9-1 in favor of the plan at its meeting last week, said Park Authority Board Chair Bill Bouie.
The park has been in the master plan process for more than a year in order to better use the space, said Bouie. Baron Cameron is a district park, drawing visitors not only from Reston but from surrounding communities.
Last spring, the park authority released a master plan draft that includes several changes to fields, gardens and lighting. The approved alternative plan includes all those changes, but also adds the option for a indoor recreation center, which would likely feature a 50-meter indoor pool.
The recreation center has been a sometimes contentious community discussion since February of 2013, when the Reston Community Center began discussing the idea of building a new facility at Baron Cameron Park in cooperation with the park authority. The park authority would give the land to RCC at no cost.
In 2013, RCC hired consultants Brailsford & Dunlavy for a feasibility study that estimated the rec center would cost about $35 million.
The swimming community is in favor of a new pool as RCC’s 25-meter indoor pool at Hunters Woods is outdated and crowded, they said. However, many community members question traffic, loss of green space, financial impact and whether there is a need for an additional indoor pool in Reston.
The next step in RCC’s process would be a community referendum, and RCC executive director Leila Gordon says that won’t happen this year.
Meanwhile, the new-and-improved Baron Cameron Park won’t happen for a long time, either. Bouie said earlier this year there are no bonds or developer proffers attached to any park improvements. That means whatever is in the master plan is basically just a wish list for the time being.
“Any bonds we would obtain would be for 2023 at the earliest,” Bouie said.
Also in the master plan: The off-leash dog area will stay in its current location along Wiehle Avenue. There had been a proposal in one of the plan drafts to move it further inside the park, away from nearby homes. There had also been feedback from citizens at a community meeting in March to move the dog park to Lake Fairfax Park.
A group of homeowners in the Longwood Grove neighborhood, which sits across Wiehle Avenue from the dog park, filed an injunction against the park in March. In it, they complained about excessive noise and asked that the dog park be shut down.
The homeowners’ attorney was at the park authority meeting last week and asked again that the dog park be shut down.
Key elements of the master plan include:
- Upgrading the rectangle fields to full-size, with synthetic turf and lights
- Adding a second lighted diamond field
- Increasing the amount of parking spaces
- Adding a second park entrance off Wiehle Avenue
- Adding a multi-use court complex
- Expanding the community garden plots
- Creating a trail network throughout the park and a new pedestrian connection to the adjacent Browns Chapel Park (operated by Reston Association)
- Removing several athletic fields in order to build the indoor rec center.
Read the entire Baron Cameron Park Master Plan Draft.
Graphic: Baron Cameron Park with alternative plan/Credit: FCPA
The Fairfax County Park Authority Board has established Tobacco-Free Play Zones in the county parks. Coming this summer: signage that will notify the public of this new designation and thank residents for their voluntary cooperation.
The signs will request that park visitors refrain from tobacco use at skate parks, playgrounds and athletic fields. Partial funding for the signs is anticipated from the Live Healthy Fairfax initiative funded by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Community Transformation Grant, says the FCPA.
From the park authority:
In June 2011, the Partnership for a Healthier Fairfax conducted a Community Health Status Assessment. That report found that 20 percent of Fairfax County residents listed tobacco use as the most important health-related issue for this community.
With that in mind, reducing tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke became a priority item for the county and this Park Authority program was initiated. This initiative is being implemented in coordination with the Partnership for a Healthier Fairfax and the Fairfax County Health Department.
Smoking increases risk for disease, disability and death for smokers and those who are exposed to second-hand smoke throughout their life. Besides the apparent health benefits any reduction in second-hand smoke or primary tobacco-use provides, there are also benefits to the environment. The reduction of cigarette butt litter will improve the health of local streams, lakes and rivers into which they migrate. Cigarette butts contain carcinogenic materials that also pose a danger to wildlife which may ingest them.
FCPA parks in Reston include Baron Cameron Park and Lake Fairfax Park.
In 2013, the Reston Association Board of Directors voted to extend no-smoking zone near Reston facilities and to install signage encouraging people to consider quitting. There is no smoking within 50 feet of RA facilities such as bike paths, pools, tennis courts and and tot lots. The previous zone was 25 feet.
RA has said there is no way to police the ban, but hopes residents will comply out of respect for non-smoking neighbors.
Photo: Baron Cameron Park/File photo
Planners of Tysons Corner’s transformation from car-clogged roads to a walkable edge city also want to see 154 acres of additional parkland so the expected nearly 100,000 future residents will have places to play.
With an eye on building Tysons into a city, Fairfax County would like to add one-and-a-half acres of parkland per 1,000 residents and one acre for every 10,000 employees (of which there are expected to be more than 200,000 by 2050). Tysons currently has 89 acres of parkland.
In a recently released report on the Tysons Park System Concept Plan, the county said it would need 29 playgrounds, 22 sports courts, 2 dog parks and 1 skate park to meet the needs of the expected population over the next 40 years.
What does this have to do with Reston? Reston, like Tysons, is predicted to experience a boom in growth due to the opening of Metro’s Silver Line, which may go into service in the next few months. It remains to be seen if the large list of recreation recommendations ever come to be in Tysons.
The Reston Comprehensive Plan Amendment that was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors earlier this year called for the construction of only three playing fields near Reston’s Metro stations, where most of the development will occur and new residents will move.
Those areas have almost no existing park space. The Wiehle-Reston East Station is located in what used to be zoned a strictly industrial/commercial area. With no previous residents, there are no existing residential amenities such as parks and playing fields in the immediate area.
The Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force had recommended that 12 additional playing fields be constructed in Reston to accommodate 40,000 new residents.
Earlier this year, Reston 2020 co-chair Terry Maynard called the plan for recreation in Reston “unacceptable.”
“The suburban standard is five acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents; the urban one is 1.5 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents topped with a one-acre dollop of space for every 10,000 employees,” he wrote in an analysis of the field allotments. “In Reston, the county suburban standard would lead to about 270 acres of parkland in the station areas.The urban standard leads to 95 acres in Reston’s station areas.
“The result is that less than six percent of the total Reston station area space will be devoted to parks. By comparison, New York City’s Manhattan Borough, the most densely populated, most densely employed, and most valuable piece of urban real estate in the United States, has more than 19 percent of its land devoted to parks and recreation.”
In Reston, there are no current plan for additional parks, though Baron Cameron Park is in the midst of a Master Plan revision.
Fairfax County Park Authority Board Chair Bill Bouie, a Reston resident, says Reston already has the recreational structure in place, therefore there is not as great a need for major park and playing field expansion.
Reston was planned with open space as a priority, and significant amenities are already here,says Bouie. That includes 55 miles of trails, 16 Reston Association pools, pocket parks, playing fields and three major parks (Lake Fairfax Park, Baron Cameron Park and Brown’s Chapel Park).
Bouie said that fields at Reston schools, including the new turf fields at South Lakes High School, are also considered amenities already in place.
“There is so much here already,” says Bouie. “We don’t have nearly the assets in Tysons.”
In the future, up for grabs in Reston may be the area called Town Center North, which encompasses the site of the recently-closed Cameron Glen Rehabilitation Center. There has been talk of using the 47-acre site, currently owned by the county and by Inova Health Systems, as mixed-use development, the site of the new Reston Regional Library and open space.
Town Center North has also been mentioned as a possible location for a proposed Reston Community Center facility that would include a 50-meter indoor pool.
That $35 million facility has been studied and discussed for more than a year for Baron Cameron Park, which is Fairfax County Park Authority property.
One Baron Cameron Master Plan proposal calls for revitalizing the 10 playing fields there with artificial turf and lights to get more use. The other involves the indoor recreation center — which would mean the park loses several fields to make room for the indoor facility.
The 30-day public comment period for the Baron Cameron Park Master Plan ended Sunday. Bouie said the board will likely vote on it in June.
From the beginning, one of the Reston Citizens Association’s key missions has been keeping the citizens informed about what’s going on in the community and serving as the voice of the citizens on key issues.
In keeping with that mission, last week we had our first “ResTown Hall Meeting.” Our goal was to inform and to listen to Restonians on a subject that is essential to Reston’s recreational future: the draft master plan for Baron Cameron Park developed by the Fairfax County Park Authority.
Based on the attendance, it was clear that the community cares about the future of Baron Cameron. We had strong turnout in spite of cold and rainy weather and the NCAA men’s basketball championship taking place that night. Not only that, the attendees came from all parts of Reston, not just the neighborhoods closest to the park.
We opened with a presentation by RCA’s Terry Maynard. Terry summarized the changes and upgrades proposed in the draft master plan. He placed the plan in the context of Reston’s planned growth, explaining Baron Cameron’s location relative to the coming Metro stations (not very close) and the Lake Anne redevelopment (quite close). He also described the other park facilities in and near Reston. Read More
Baron Cameron Park’s off-leash dog area remains without noise-reducing fencing more than a month after a storm damaged the fencing material.
The sheeting, aimed at reducing noise from the dog park, was put in place more than a year ago. Park officials said last month the fencing material, which was attached to the metal chain link fencing, is being repaired and will be replaced.
But the timing of the barrier damage and removal could not have been worse as the park and Reston Dogs Inc., the group that operates the dog park, are responding to neighbors who filed a lawsuit in early March complaining about the noise.
The residents live in Reston’s Longwood Grove neighborhood, located across Wiehle Avenue from the dog run. The dog park, which is open during daylight hours, is the only off-leash dog run in Reston.
“The dog park noise, mainly from unruly dogs barking and fighting, has grown to intolerable levels over the last two years and is likely to become even more severe in the spring and summer months,” says the court document. “On its worst days, the noise is incessant. The nuisance noise at the dog park disrupts the Longwood Grove Plaintiffs’ reasonable use and enjoyment of their properties.”
There are 100 homes in the Longwood Grove subdivision, but the complaint was brought by seven individuals representing five households.
The injunction cites several previous Virginia rulings dealing with the definition of a nuisance. It claims 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.
The injunction says that several of the plaintiffs suffer from lack of sleep and extreme stress.
Baron Cameron is about to embark on changes in a new master plan process. There are two visions for the improved park, both of which include a dog park. However, one of the plans includes moving the dog area farther into the 68-acre park’s interior in order to make way for a large indoor pool and recreation center and additional parking.
At a March 27 community meeting on the Baron Cameron Master Plan, many dog park users spoke in support of keeping the dog park at its current location.
“We would like to see the dog park remain in its current position and retain the same character,” said Tom Krassalt, president of Reston Dogs. “One of our concerns is that if the population of Reston is going to double [with upcoming development] then it would mean the dog population would double and a larger park should be considered.”
However, other citizens made the suggestion that the dog park be moved to Lake Fairfax Park, which has more open space and is farther away from homes.