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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Morning Notes

A dog cools off under some greenery (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Reminder: Excessive Heat Watch Takes Effect Today — Fairfax County and the rest of the D.C. area will be under an Excessive Heat Watch from noon to 8 p.m. The heat index could reach 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, so the National Weather Service advises drinking plenty of fluids, staying inside as much as possible, and checking up on neighbors and relatives. [NWS]

Hunters Woods Garden Thieves Resurface — Thieves that reportedly stole thousands of dollars in plants and other materials from two community garden plots at Hunters Woods Park in May have returned with the harvest season. Reston Association increased security around the gardens, including the installation of fencing and flood lights with sensors, but the culprits evidently have not been deterred from stealing vegetables. [Patch]

No Trespassing at Silver Line Phase 2 Stations — The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority issued a reminder that, while Metro’s six impending Silver Line stations look finished, they are still closed “because of ongoing construction work and potential safety hazards.” MWAA maintains that they will “most likely” open in early 2022, but there is some conflict over the timeline with the project’s contractor. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

County Board Endorses Dog Park Study — The Fairfax County Park Authority Board gave its support on July 28 to a countywide dog park study that calls for at least one new park and highlights concerns about inattentive visitors, insufficient water, and surface conditions at existing parks. A draft version of the study came out in March, and the full, final report will become available next month. [FCPA]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The Fairfax County Park Authority is one step closer to planning for more dog parks in the county due to an increase in demand and the authority’s currently limited offerings.

The county recently completed a draft of a dog park study, which was initiated in 2019 and aims to assess needs and priorities for dog parks throughout the county. Feedback was gathered from a survey with more than 4,600 respondents and the study was conducted by FCPA and the Fairfax County Park Foundation.

“The purpose of the study was to assess needs and priorities for dog parks throughout the county, and to adopt strategies for long-term planning, development and management of dog parks,” FCPA wrote in a statement.

The report calls on FCPA to construct at least one dog park by 2025 in order to meet service needs in the area. Survey respondents most sought a new dog park in the planning districts of Upper Potomac and Bull Run.

Revised guidelines and standards to plan for future dog parks would also be implemented.

The county currently has 13 public dog parks, 11 of which are owned and operated by FCPA.

Future parks would be created based on geographic distribution and the overall guideline of 20-minute drive access throughout the county and 10-minute walking access in densely populated areas. The density of licensed dogs would also be considered as part of future planning efforts.

However, the study does not recommend any changes to existing dog park rules or operating hours.

Volunteering could also become a stronger component of managing dog parks. The report suggests using volunteers to manage existing and future programs more efficiently.

A virtual meeting on the draft report is set for Tuesday, March 23 at 7 p.m. A staff presentation on the findings and recommendations of the report will be followed by a public comment period.

Other recommendations circled around operations and maintenance. While the county found that maintenance standards and practices are consistent with other jurisdictions, a need for more regular maintenance — particularly waste management — was needed.

Others also flagged the need for more water sources, rule enforcement, and shade.

Comments will be accepted via email through April 23.

Photo 1 by Jay Westcott; map via handout/Fairfax County Government

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As Northern Virginia reopens under phase one, people are beginning to visit public places like restaurants and shops again.

While Gov. Ralph Northam and health directors in Northern Virginia say that COVID-19 trends are going in the right direction, the Centers for Disease Control and the Virginia Department of Public Health warn that there is still a risk for community transmission of the virus.

For animals, though, the CDC issued a statement saying that the likelihood of catching the disease from a pet is very low. Still, people may feel hesitant to interact with other people or pets.

Currently, county-run dog parks are closed, according to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

As COVID-19 restrictions get rolled back, Reston Now would like to know how our readers feel about bringing fido to the local dog park. Let us know in the poll below and feel free to leave a comment.

Photo by Jonathan Slater on 

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The Fairfax County Park Authority has launched an in-depth study of dog parks in the county.

The study will examine current and future needs for dog parks throughout the county and include strategies for long-term planning, development, and management.

Currently, FCPA is seeking feedback through an online survey, which is available through Dec. 15.

Residents can also submit comments via email at [email protected].

More information about the study is available online.

Photo by Jay Westcott

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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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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.” Read More

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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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Sign at dog park at Baron CameronCitizens on both sides of the Reston Dog Park issue spent about two hours speaking to the Reston Association Board of Directors on Thursday. In the end, the RA Board decided to speak some more, suggesting that they further discuss noise complaints and possible mitigation measures with the Fairfax County Park Authority.

That’s because that’s all RA can really do. The off-leash dog area, the only one in Reston, is located in Baron Cameron Park, which is Fairfax County Park Authority land. Reston Association has no authority over the park, RA Attorney Ken Chadwick confirmed at Thursday’s meeting.

Still, some of the residents of Longwood Grove, a development of single-family homes located across Wiehle Avenue from the dog park, said they were seeking RA’s help in their ongoing battle to get the dog park moved.

“We are asking [RA] to stand with us to ask the county to relocate the facility,” said Moira Callaghan, representing the Longwood Grove homeowners. She said RA’s mission is to “look out for [members] property values … and the interest of our homes and our health, safety and welfare.”

Callaghan was among seven individuals who sought legal action to have the park shut down in recent years. That case was dismissed in a Fairfax County court.

She maintained in a presentation to the board Thursday that the barking of dogs at the park “degrades the quality of life” for Longwood Grove residents.

Callaghan also gave a history of the dog park. She pointed out that it was never approved by the Fairfax County Planning Commission, was intended to be temporary, and that many Longwood Grove homeowners purchased their homes prior to the dog park’s opening in 2001. She also said county officials — including the park authority and Fairfax County Police have continually passed the buck in regards to evaluating noise levels and responding to complaints. Read More

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Dogs play on a Sunday Baron CameronReston Association wants to know how you feel about Reston’s Dog Park at Baron Cameron Park.

The RA Board of Directors will be discussing the dog park — as well as listening to comments from members during its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, March 24. The dog park discussion will begin at 7:30 p.m. RA has no particular motion for action to be taken concerning the park.

At issue: the ongoing saga of nearby homeowners who say their quality of life is being interrupted by the constant barking and yapping from the off-leash area that borders Wiehle Avenue.

The RA board recently received a petition from residents of more than 40 homes in Longwood Grove, located across Wiehle from the park.

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. Park Authority representatives have also been invited to speak at the meeting. Read More

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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. Read More

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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.” Read More

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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. Read More

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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. Read More

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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.” Read More

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