43°Overcast

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.”

70 Comments

RA Board Supports Recommendations for Dog Park Improvements

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHORT-TERM GOALS (within next 3 to 6 months)

Park Improvements to Mitigate Noise:

  • Install a visual barrier between the two sections of the park to reduce interaction between big and little dogs.
  • Distribute garbage cans throughout the park rather than having one consolidated garbage can location.
  • Provide a new gate door to separate the entrances to the large and small dog areas.
  • Provide full-time, paid monitor during dog park hours.
  • Charge a Dog Park user fee to pay for the visual barrier and dog park monitor.
  • Create incentives for volunteer monitors.

General Park Maintenance:

  • Take down existing mesh barrier along the fence on the Wiehle Avenue side of the park.
  • Improve the landscaping
  • Re-grade the park floor to improve drainage and increase safety.
  • Prioritize park maintenance.
  • Repair existing gaps/holes in chain-link fences and gate doors.

ADA Compliance:

  • Install slow-shut gates.
  • Add accessible parking to the dog park.
  •  Add accessible pathway from parking lot to the dog park.

LONG-TERM GOALS (within the next 18 months)

  • Identify potential sites for additional dog parks to reduce demand at this location (Reston Association and Fairfax County).
  • Establish specific zoning ordinances for installation of dog parks in Fairfax County.
  • Engage a professional licensed acoustical engineer to identify ways to significantly mitigate sound coming from the dog park, which might include reducing the dog park’s elevation in conjunction with installation of a berm and solid 10- to 15-foot wall.
40 Comments

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.

22 Comments

More Dog Park Talk, With a Solution to Talk Some More

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.

“In a span of three months, 70 calls were made to police in 2013,” said Callaghan. “Police and animal control would not intervene.”

“Our concerns are valid,” she said. “Noise can be heard in our home with the doors and windows closed. We have spent years and thousands of dollars. A viable, longterm solution is needed. We conclude the only viable solution is to relocate the dog park.”

Suggested new locations include 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.

Neither of those are likely to happen. FCPA Chair Bill Bouie said in a letter to RA that the park authority has no plans to move the dog park. He said the park authority will look into other measures of noise abatement at Baron Cameron.

Some of the suggestions offered by citizens and a representative of Reston Dogs, a nonprofit that for years administered the park, included greater rule enforcement; more separation between big and small dogs; and user fees and registration for better tracking of repeat offenders.

There was lengthy testimony from citizens on both sides of the issue on Thursday.

Jonathan Campbell, a resident of Vantage Hill, spoke poignantly about how adopting a Labrador Retriever after he was injured in a bike accident and confined to a wheelchair has restored some normalcy to his life.

“Baron Cameron Park is the only dog park in the area that is completely wheelchair accessible,” he said. “Going to the dog park gave me a reason to get out and be active. My dog deserves to be active and happy — I can’t keep up with her, but at the dog park I can.”

“I think as a community we should say ‘enough is enough,’ ” he said, pointing out the Longwood Grove residents’ lawsuit, as well as the petition that led to RA’s Thursday discussion. “What is it that affects your quality of life so much about living next to a dog park? At this point, [Longwood Grove] has become more of a nuisance to us dog owners than we could be on them.”

Another resident and dog park user said the issue has become an embarrassment for Reston.

“I feel there are other priorities in our community that need our attention,” she said.

Carrie Sawicki, a Longwood Grove resident of 22 years, said other residents should try and see the issue from the neighborhood’s eyes.

“People have relatively brief experiences at the dog park,” she said. “It is different than the people who live [in Longwood Grove] for 15 years. We hear dogs fighting. We hear owners yelling at dogs. It can be heard from inside my house.”

Baron Cameron Dog Park/file photo

17 Comments

Speak to RA on Reston Dog Park Noise Thursday

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.

The Longwood Grove residents are asking RA’s help in addressing the following issues: the nuisance noise coming from the dog park, traffic concerns at access points to the dog park, proper management of the facility and its users, and relocation of the park to Lake Fairfax.

“The negative impact of this park feature on our neighborhood is severe,” Longwood Grove resident Moira Callaghan wrote to the RA Board last month. “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.”

Callaghan said the neighbors “no not oppose dog parks.”

“We advocate for their responsible placement and management,” she wrote. “Despite neighbors’ best efforts to encourage the 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.”

FCPA Chair Bill Bouie, a Reston resident, says the park authority has taken steps to mitigate noise — but there will always be some noise with a dog run.

“Balancing the needs of pet owners and those who live near any of the Park Authority’s nine Off-Leash Dog Areas is a challenge,” he wrote to the RA Board. “Regardless of any rules or restrictions at our facilities, there will be the barking of dogs in general — such noise is a characteristic of dog parks. In fact, noise is a factor in many recreational areas.

“With that in mind, the Fairfax County Park Authority has implemented various measures to address the concerns of the neighbors located near the Baron Cameron Off Leash Dog Area (OLDA) while keeping in mind the needs of the thousands of residents who enjoy the dog park each year.”

Some of the measures include noise-reducing fencing material and altering park hours to be in line with Fairfax County’s new noise ordinance. Bouie said the park authority has no funding or plans to move the park to Lake Fairfax.

The noise complaints about the dog park have been going on for many 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.

A smaller group of Longwood Grove owners recently lobbied for the dog run to move to Lake Fairfax Park, even offering the park authority $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.

“We conclude the only viable option is to close and relocate the dog park,” Callaghan told the RA board at last month’s meeting. “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.”

Baron Cameron Dog Park/file photo

13 Comments

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.”

68 Comments

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

 

16 Comments

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

5 Comments

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.

25 Comments

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.”

8 Comments

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.

5 Comments

Restonians — Mostly — Love The Dog Park

Playtime at the dog parkWednesday’s Reston Now article about a group of North Reston residents asking the Fairfax County Park Authority to shut down the Baron Cameron Park off-leash dog area generated a record number of page views and comments, as well as lively social media reaction.

Last week, a group of residents of Longwood Grove, the subdivision situated across Wiehle Avenue from the dog park, filed an injunction in Fairfax County Circuit Court asking that the park be immediately closed. The residents, who represent five of the 100 households in the neighborhood, say the dog barking is a nuisance that is affecting their quality of life.

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.

Most people who commented and engaged on Reston Now’s Facebook page say the injunction is not warranted.

“Wiehle in and of itself is loud and busy, as is Baron Cameron, so why not just shut them both down as well as the entire Baron Cameron Park since I can hear kids and parents yelling and whistles blowing? Who are these people anyway? They should really consider packing up and moving out of a metropolitan area so someplace like the Montana wilderness,” said Facebook commenter Robbie Nolan.

Said Deloris Bailey:  “This park is used by so many dog owners and is a benefit to the ENTIRE community … how can 5 families shut it down? Also, if you wanted peace, why buy a house off of Wiehle? It will still be extremely noisy. When I was a kid, we moved to a neighborhood off of a major intersection. At first the noise kept me up, but eventually I got used to it. When I went away to college, the quiet campus kept me up, for awhile.

Also, the article said that the new Master Plan recommends moving the dog park into an interior section of the park … this should work. … And they should make it bigger.”

Here is a sampling of what others had to say:

On Facebook – 

* Ok, how do we protest. Sign me up! This is ridiculous. Sure, there are doggy-noises, but the dog park is not close enough to houses to warrant noise complaints. I’m seriously appalled by this. Some people just have to find something to complain about!!!

* Ridiculous. Then close down the soccer fields, etc. if you don’t like noise. There are plenty of other noisy things around. Like others said, if you don’t like dogs, then don’t buy a house next to a dog park. There is only one dog park in Reston and Reston is such a dog-friendly place, we need it.

We’re at the dog park almost every day, year round. All I can say is that those in the dog park while we’re there are very sensitive about the noise issue and make a concerted effort to keep the dogs from barking excessively. It is a very popular and heavily used dog park so there is some barking and other noise, as you might expect, but regular visitors have been very active in trying to mitigate the noise.

I will also say that the dog park is perhaps our favorite part of this community. We’ve made so many good friends there, and we’ve seen so many dogs work out issues and become well socialized with the help of other understanding and supportive dog owners and their pets. The exercise and play the dogs get to experience in the park is invaluable to their happiness and well-being. The dog owners benefit from their interactions as well.

My recommendation to those who are complaining about the noise is to walk on over and partake of the joy in the dog park. It is full of good karma, happiness, and friendship.

On Reston Now – 

* People are drawn to Reston because it is a community—we live,work, and play together. It seems to me that these homeowners bought homes knowing they were near a park. Still, Fairfax County Park Authority has made concessions to address their noise concerns (which seem overstated at best). We can all love happily and comfortably because of all of the spaces and resources available to us beyond our front doors. If you take the dog park away, having a dog won’t be an option for so many Restonians who live in condos, apartments or small homes without much private outdoor space. What loss that would be in the quality of life column.

* I hope the noise victims win. Noise, which includes excessive barking, is a serious health hazard. And for those of you laughing.. you have no idea what this is like. But it isn’t the dogs’ fault. It is the fault of irresponsible dog owners.

* Gee Whiz, the comments on this stream are pretty one sided! I have lived in Reston for a long time (not in this zip code) and can say that the park was originally intended as a school site. The homes built close to the current dog park were there BEFORE the dog park existed. Twice when I have been a guest at two homes in the proximity of the affected homes, I could clearly hear the dogs barking the entire time I was there, once during the afternoon for several hours and once in evening for a dinner party.

I was surprised to hear that a special fence had been erected. Doesn’t that seem to indicate that there IS a problem? [Park Authority Board Chair Bill Bouie] Mr. Bouie is quoted as saying “they “did tests that showed no noise. If so, why was fence erected? Do Bouie and others claiming that dogs don’t create a nuisance have hearing disabilities? That would be only way that one could claim that the barking can not be heard.

I myself have a hearing problem but was still aware of the barking though I did not convey anything about it to my hosts as I did not want to call attention to the annoyance. And I was just visiting, so I can well understand the stress on those forced to live there.

3 Comments

Reston Dog Park Neighbors File Court Order Asking For Shutdown

A group of residents of Reston’s Longwood Grove neighborhood has filed an injunction to shut down Baron Cameron Park’s Dog Park.

The dog park, which is open during daylight hours, is the only off-leash dog run in Reston. The neighbors filed the preliminary injunction last week in Fairfax County Circuit Court, saying the park “constitutes 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,” says the court document.

The neighbors — named in the injunction as Moira Callaghan, Carrie Sawicki, Robert Sawicki, David Okerson, Barbara Okerson, Judith Strother and Kris Capps — say the noise begins at 5:30 a.m. and continues through the day and evening.

“On its worst days, the noise is incessant,” the document states. “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.  A member of the plaintiff group declined to be interviewed for this article, as did Zachary Williams, the plaintiffs’ attorney.

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 is owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority, which is named in the injunction.

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

“The traffic noise on Wiehle is louder than the dog noise,” said Bouie.

The recent Reston Master Plan revision says that an average of 41,000 cars travel through the intersection of Wiehle Avenue and Baron Cameron daily.

Also named in the injunction is Reston Dogs, a volunteer organization that organizes and operates the dog park.

“We obviously don’t agree with the facts as stated from the five families bringing the case, however, we take all of our neighbors perceptions about noise seriously,” said Tom Krasselt, a representative of Reston Dogs. He says that dog park users are respectful of one another and are quick to remove their pets if the barking gets out of control.

Krasselt says the dog park has been in Baron Cameron Park since 1991, a few years before the Longwood Grove homes were built.

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.

There will be a public meeting on the Baron Cameron Park Master Plan process on March 27 at 7 p.m. at Buzz Aldrin Elementary School.

38 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list