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RA Urges County to Support Dog Park Study as Baron Cameron Concerns Continue

Incessant and untimely barking at the dog park at Baron Cameron Park has had residents in that area fuming for years.

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.

The Baron Cameron park is one of nine Fairfax County dog parks. Callaghan suggested RA encourage the county to move the park to Lake Fairfax Park, an idea that has been floated before.

“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.”

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Dog Park Working Group Will Bring Together All Sides

Sign at dog park at Baron CameronReston 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 move comes after citizens on both sides of the issue spent about two hours speaking to the Reston Association Board of Directors at their March meeting.

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.

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RA Board Will Listen to Neighbors’ Dog Park Noise Complaints

Sign at dog park at Baron CameronReston 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.

The RA board will hear from the Longwood Grove homeowners at next meeting (March 24, 6:30 p.m. at RA HQ, 12001 Sunrise Valley Dr.). RA says it will also invite park authority representatives. Eighty Longwood Grove residents representing more than 40 homes petitioned RA to ask for its help.

The noise complaints about the dog park have been going on for years. The dog park has been at the Wiehle Avenue edge of Baron Cameron Park since 2001.

The residents say the off-leash area, which is the only one in Reston, was supposed to be temporary and was never approved by the county planning commission.

“It does not meet the land use goals of Reston, the park authority or the county,” said Moira Callaghan, representing Longwood Grove at Thursday’s RA Board 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.”

Callaghan was among a smaller group of Longwood Grove owners that recently lobbied for the dog run to move to Lake Fairfax Park, even offering $15,000 to assist the process. The group also filed a lawsuit against the county park authority and the former nonprofit that administered the dog park in order to get the dog run shut down.

The lawsuit was dismissed last year, but the homeowners still want the park to move or to go away. Callaghan said that even though Fairfax County recently instituted new noise rules, dog parks are exempt from them.

“We conclude the only viable option is to close and relocate the dog park,” she said. “We recognize the desire for a dog park, but we seek RA’s assistance. RA’s purpose is to promote the peace, health and comfort of all members. It is not peaceful to sit on your porch and hear 90 minutes of dogs barking. Unlike traffic noise, barking is impulsive and is more annoying.”

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Longwood Grove Neighbors Ask RA’s Help in Quieting Dog Park

Playtime at the dog parkMore than 50 Longwood Grove homeowners are asking for Reston Association’s assistance in finally quieting the noise from the Baron Cameron Park Dog Park.

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.”

The residents also say the increased traffic turning into the park is “unacceptable for a renowned planned community like Reston.”

Meanwhile, the new Fairfax County noise ordinance went into effect last week, which slightly altered the dog park hours. The new hours are 7 a.m. to one half-hour after sunset Monday through Friday. On weekends and federal holidays, the hours are 8 a.m. to one half-hour after sunset.

Here is the full letter:

Dear Reston Association Board Members,

We write to ask your help with nuisance noise caused by daily barking at the Baron Cameron dog park adjacent to our homes. The negative impact of this park feature on our neighborhood is severe. The barking has created years of ongoing stress: the noise disrupts sleep, invades the peace and quiet of homes throughout the day, and can often be heard after the park has closed.

The increased vehicular traffic, which includes many park users turning into or out of the park, makes it difficult to get out of Longwood Grove. We feel this is unacceptable for a renowned planned community like Reston that values the “peace, health, comfort, safety and general welfare of its members.” We hope you agree.

We do not oppose dog parks; we advocate for their responsible placement and management. We believe that many use the dog park responsibly; however, many do not. As many of us are dog owners, we understand that dogs bark. We believe that it is an owner’s responsibility to be in control of and responsible for their dog(s) at all times. None of the dog park rules are enforceable. This is a “use at your own risk” facility with voluntary compliance and no consequence for violation.

Dog park violations have been a long-standing problem even for the Reston Dogs sponsor groups. 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 Longwood Grove neighborhood was developed in the mid 1980s. The dog park was installed as “interim use” into the then designated school site across the street in 2001. The Park Authority did not seek or receive Planning Commission approval as required by VA code 15.2-2232. This requirement is reiterated in county guidelines. This park feature clearly changed the characteristic of this park by exposing this neighborhood to a feature unlike any other in usage
and noise generation as it is utilized 365 days a year from early morning to dusk. Fairfax County has recognized barking as a nuisance since the adoption of the first Noise Ordinance 50 years ago. With the anticipated growth in Fairfax County, especially within Reston, we believe this nuisance will continue to worsen.

We recognize the desire for a dog park, but seek Reston Association’s assistance for ensuring any amenity within Reston serves and supports the needs of all members of the community; one that is in keeping with the fundamental planning goals of Reston which seeks to ensure the homeowner peace and enjoyment of their home and property.

Baron Cameron Dog Park/file phto

 

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Dog Park Hours to Change in Keeping With New Noise Rules

Sign at dog park at Baron Cameron

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.

The new ordinance put into place the amended dog park hours. It also made some rules about rogue animals noises in your own home (if the neighbors hear and complain). The new ordinance says no “barking, howling, meowing, squawking or quacking animals between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. when it can be heard inside a home with its doors and windows closed, or if these sounds can be heard 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. for more than five minutes consecutively or non-consecutively during a 10-minute period.”

Violators of the ordinance can face both criminal and civil penalties. Criminal penalties for violation, a Class 2 misdemeanor, can be include jail time (up to six months) and/or a $1,000 fine. There can also be civil penalties of $250 (and $500 for subsequent offenses).

The dog park noise has been a subject of concern for some Reston residents who live near Baron Cameron Park.

A group of residents from Longwood Grove, a subdivision located across Wiehle Avenue from the park, has spent more than two years lobbying to get the location of the dog run changed to the park’s interior and filed a lawsuit ordering the park to cease.

“On its worst days, the noise is incessant,” says the lawsuit filed in 2014. “The nuisance noise at the dog park disrupts the Longwood Grove Plaintiffs’ reasonable use and enjoyment of their properties.”

Fairfax County Park Authority Board Chair Bill Bouie has previously said the county has listened to the affected residents and installed noise-reducing fencing. He also said the county has done its own tests and found no measurable noise coming from the park.

Last April, a Fairfax County judge partially dismissed the lawsuit against the park authority. The homeowners continued with a case  against Reston Dogs, Inc., the nonprofit that supports the park, but that was also recently dismissed as the nonprofit has disbanded, said Bouie.

Photo: Reston Dog Park/file photo

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Dog Park Foes Seek County Grant to Change Location

Sign at dog park at Baron CameronSeveral 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.

“A dog park was approved for that location by FCPA in October 2001, about one month after Baron Cameron Park was opened to the public. This proposal will provide the county with a larger dog park, centrally located in a 476-acre park less than two miles away. We feel this proposal is win-win for all. … We are offering $15,000 to FCPA to relocate the dog park to Lake Fairfax using existing dog park materials. Every dog park in Fairfax County except two, one which was part of a development proffer and the other privately owned, have been erected using dog park sponsor money matched by Mastenbrook Grant Funds.”

Bouie said the application will be considered through the normal Park Authority grant process. Applications are reviewed by park staff, which then makes a recommendation to the Park Authority Board. The Board makes the final decision on funding.

An additional Park Authority source says Longwood Grove said they would pay $15,000 of its own money if they could get matching grant funds from the county in an offer to settle the lawsuit last month. That offer was unanimously rejected by the Park Authority Board, the source said.

The grant application says the park materials — including 1,235 linear feet of vinyl coated chain link fence — can be relocated and a new park open at a cost of $30,000, but the park source said the figure is closer to $200,000.

The grant application says a dog park at the Lake Fairfax, which is much larger and farther set from residential neighborhoods, would:

  • Provide immediate relief to our residential neighborhood, especially considering Fairfax County exempted dog park noise from the noise ordinance.
  • The dog park will be located in a heavily used area with sufficient parking and ADA accessibility, less than two miles from the current location.
  • Patrons have stated that Lake Fairfax would make a great location for a dog park.
  • This location offers a larger, partially-shaded dog park.
  • Lake Fairfax is convenient for families with dogs and children as many sports fields are located in the area and there are many trails for dog walking. This location is convenient for those camping at Lake Fairfax.
  • FCPA’s on-site staff is able to monitor the facility as the dog park may no longer have a sponsor
  • The location will not result in the destruction of a sports field.
  • The center of this 476 acre park is suitable for this type of park feature. This proposal should not result in residential noise disturbances.
  • Removes a feature that is unsightly and does not meet Reston’s design standards.

Baron Cameron Park recently went through a Master Plan process. In the plan approved last June, the dog park, which the board had considered moving to the interior of the park, stays in its current location along Wiehle Avenue.

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New RCC Facility Won’t Go to Referendum in 2015

Reston Community CenterReston Community Center will not send the idea of a new indoor recreational facility to a community referendum in 2015, RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon said.

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.

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Dog Park Group Raising Money For Legal Defense

Sign at dog park at Baron CameronReston 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.”

The suit alleges that the noise from the park is often incessant and “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.

In the complaint, it states that the Longwood Grove homes are 300-400 feet from the dog park. However, Wiehle Avenue, a busy, four-lane main road, along with a buffer of trees and a noise-reducing fence, separate the homes from the park.

Baron Cameron Park recently went through a master plan revision. There had been a proposal as part of the master plan process to move the off-leash area farther into the interior of the park. However, the draft, which was approved by the park authority board in June, keeps the dog park in its current location at the edge along Wiehle Avenue.

Reston Dogs said in its email to users “we are currently evaluating possible alternative solutions that might avoid having the case go to trial. Some of those possible options are methods to reduce the noise at the current location or a possible move of the dog park to a different location within Baron Cameron Park.”

Park Authority Chairman Bill Bouie said the county has asked for the case to be dismissed and that the county attorney is handling the park authority’s defense.

“The county attorney’s office is handling the situation and it is going through the normal process of the judicial system,” said Bouie . “In the meantime, the park authority will continue to try and mitigate any issues that arise and are documented at the dog park, but it is an essential part of the community’s assets and used by a lot of people.”

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Park Master Plan Provides Framework, But Not Necessarily Facilities

Baron Cameron Park/Credit: FCPABaron Cameron Park may one day be home to a large indoor recreation center or other new amenity.

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.

The swimming community is in favor of a new pool as RCC’s 25-meter indoor pool 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.

Bouie says what may eventually wind up at Baron Cameron may not even be a pool.

“It could be an indoor track, it could be tennis, it could be a field house, it could be a pool,” he said. “But we need to reserve the right to build something there because we don’t have any other property that is buildable.”

Plans or no plans, the question of money remains. For the park authority to make improvements, it will need at least bond money — and preferably some developer proffer cash as well, says Bouie.

There are no park bonds scheduled to go before voters until 2016, and it may take as long as 2023, Bouie said. The cost for park improvements in the master plan (excluding the indoor center) would be about $25 million, he added.

“The improvements at Baron Cameron Park will not result in a tax increase to any residents of Reston unless it is part of an overall tax increase across the county,” said Bouie.

Meanwhile, RCC would need to hold a referendum among Small Tax District 5 voters for the $30 million cost of the pool and rec center construction. A referendum won’t happen in 2014, RCC executive director Leila Gordon said.

Some RCC pool opponents say Small Tax District 5 residents, who currently pay to support Reston Community Center, are taxed enough and should not be asked to pay for a new RCC.

“RCA/Reston 2020 has done exhaustive analyses of this issue, which totally refutes the idea that building such a facility is supported by facts or valid studies,” Tammi Petrine of Reston 2020 commented on an earlier Reston Now story on this issue. “In fact, local #5 taxes would go up to pay for an amenity that anyone in county can use.  … The cost of the referendum alone is $75,o00. I can think of better ways to spend (or save) my extra Real Estate Small Tax District 5 assessment than on a referendum that would enslave me and everyone else in Reston in perpetuity for a blood-sucking rec center that should’ve been built for us long ago by the Park Authority. “

Read the entire Baron Cameron Park Master Plan Draft.

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Park Authority Approves Baron Cameron Plan With Recreation Center Option

Baron Cameron Park Plan with new dog park location and indoor rec center/Credit: FCPA The Fairfax County Park Authority Board has approved a master plan for Reston’s Baron Cameron Park that includes the option of adding an indoor recreation facility to the 68-acre parcel.

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

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Fairfax Parks To Enact Smoking Ban

Baron Cameron Park/Credit: FCPAThe 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

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How Do Reston’s Future Park Plans Measure Up To Tysons?

Pick up soccer in the parkPlanners 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.

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Colin Mills: ResTown Hall Meeting on Baron Cameron Park

Colin Mills/File photoFrom 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.

From there, Terry focused on the plan elements that have generated the most discussion to date: the fields, the proposed recreation center option, the dog park, and the potential impact on traffic.  In each of these areas, he explained the key aspects of the draft plan and the concerns that have been raised.

On the field issue, Terry showed that the plan would actually provide fewer fields than are at the park currently, particularly if part of the land is devoted to a rec center, which is an option in the plan. The Park Authority plans to increase the capacity of the fields by adding artificial turf and lights. Terry showed that with fewer fields, total rectangular field capacity at Baron Cameron would only increase by 20 to 40 percent … and if the rec center is built, it might not increase at all.

Terry briefly discussed the rec center option. As currently envisioned, the Park Authority would supply the land, but would not build the facility (RCC is exploring building a rec center there).Terry expressed Reston 2020’s position that Town Center North would make more sense for a rec center, as that’s where the residents will be.

Baron Cameron Park Plan with new dog park location and indoor rec center/Credit: FCPA Terry noted that the draft plan roughly doubles the number of parking spaces and adds a new north entrance along Wiehle. He noted the pluses (reduces the problem of park users parking in surrounding neighborhoods, improved access to the park) and minuses (added congestion on Wiehle, access challenges for the neighborhood next door). He also noted that the new spaces might be tempting for commuters, who might park there and ride the bus to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.

The dog park has become one of the most controversial aspects at Baron Cameron. Terry did a good job explaining both sides, both the dog owners who treasure it as a recreational and social venue and the neighbors who have complained about the noise it generates. He laid out possible options: keeping the dog park as is, moving it to the interior of the park (a plan option), or moving it to another location, such as Lake Fairfax Park.

After that, we broke into small groups for discussion.  My table contained a nice cross-section of the community.  Some of our folks lived across the street from the park; others lived on the other side of town. Some had been Restonians for decades; others were relative newcomers. Some had followed the process closely; others came primarily to learn.

Given the diversity of perspectives around the table, it’s no surprise that we had a lively discussion.  We had some good questions and some creative ideas.  When the other tables reported back to the larger group, it was clear that they’d also had great discussions. There was no invective, no shouting; just thoughtful citizens sharing their views and raising honest questions. It was exactly the kind of forum we hoped to create.

After the tables had shared their feedback, we gave every audience member a few sticky dots to identify the points that mattered most to them. When we totaled up the dots, it was clear what the community likes and doesn’t like about the plan.

The respondents liked the increased field capacity, the addition of trails and fitness stations, the retention of the existing gardens, and the planned multi-use courts. They didn’t like the amount of added parking, the potential added traffic on Wiehle, and the insufficient space dedicated to group social activities  They expressed strong opposition to a rec center at Baron Cameron.  And they mentioned some things to add, like bike storage, a circumferential trail, and a Memorial Garden.

If one concern predominated, it was that the plan tries to do too much in too little space. Unfortunately, we’re likely to hear this concern more often as Reston grows. We’re an active community; kids and adults alike are involved in running, biking, sports leagues, and other recreational activities. The demand for recreational amenities is going to rise — sharply — as Reston’s population increases.

But the available space for those amenities is likely to shrink.  Meeting increased demand for recreation in a limited space, and with limited financial resources, will be a major challenge for our leaders to meet in the coming years.  We’ll need to be smart in identifying our priorities, and creative in finding and implementing solutions.

What’s next? We’re compiling the feedback from the meeting into a community response, which we will submit to the Park Authority. We will highlight the most important issues that the community identified, along with recommendations based on them.  ut we will also include all the feedback we received, to ensure that everyone’s voice is represented in our report.

I believe our inaugural ResTown Hall Meeting was a success. I look forward to this being the first of many such meetings. I hope to see you at the next one.  And whether you attended this one or not, I hope you’ll share your comments with the Park Authority at [email protected] (deadline for public comments is April 27).  In order to make the best decisions for our community, the Park Authority needs to hear from our citizens.

Colin Mills is the president of Reston Citizens Association. He writes weekly on Reston Now.

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Noise-Reducing Fencing Still Absent at Baron Cameron Park Dog Run

Noise reducing fencing is supposed to surround Baron Cameron Park dig run.

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.

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Op-Ed: What Do YOU Think About Plan for Baron Cameron Park?

Baron Cameron Park/Credit: FCPALast week, the Fairfax County Park Authority staff held a public meeting at which they laid out the draft Baron Cameron Master Plan, a plan that will guide development of the park for the next decade. It was followed by people, some representing local special interest groups, standing and saying what they wanted (or didn’t want) in the plan. The presentation opened a 30-day public comment period on the draft plan.

But there was no discussion about the plan, no collaborative thinking or problem solving on how Restonians as a community would propose to improve the plan.

Monday evening, all Restonians will have that opportunity at an interactive forum sponsored by RCA’s Reston 2020 Committee. The forum will be held at Buzz Aldrin Elementary School from 7 to 9 p.m.

Reston 2020 will begin by summarizing key aspects of the draft Baron Cameron Park plan. His presentation will focus on the most controversial aspects of the plan:  the off-leash dog park, the option to build a recreation center there, the reduction in rectangular playing fields, and the implications for traffic congestion on Wiehle. 

The forum will then break up into small groups to brainstorm community thinking about the plan, focusing on its strengths, weaknesses, what’s missing, and what the risks are in the plan.  After each group briefly presents its ideas to the re-convened group, everyone will have a chance to help prioritize them. Then, in an open conversation, we will try to arrive at a consensus as to the most important points to make about the plan.

Reston 2020 will follow up by compiling the results and sharing them with the Park Authority as a consolidated community perspective, including listing all the ideas that came out of the small groups, before the end of the 30-day comment period.

The forum aims to provide an abundant opportunity to discuss all the key issues, not just advocate a single-issue position, and reach some community solutions to controversial aspects of the park plan.

This is the community’s last opportunity to provide a Reston perspective on the draft plan. Everyone is encouraged to come to the forum and participate in making Reston’s only district park the best it can be.

Terry Maynard
Co-Chair, Reston 2020

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