I used to lead the RestonDogs organization and don’t usually make posts about issues related to the dog park in public forums. However I felt like I needed to provide a few comments about the Reston Association (RA) recommendations for Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) about the Reston Dog Park or Reston Off Leash Dog Area (OLDA).
First of all, the decision on the location of the Reston Dog Park has already been litigated and decided by the court system, the case was dismissed without being heard; the case was very weak on any factual data.
The primary question I have is why is the RA taking this on as an issue. Do they feel some urgent need to tell FCPA how to do their job and does RA have a specialty in noise, or park/dog park management? With few exceptions, dog park users are extremely happy with the support we get from FCPA. Let’s not make FCPA the problem, FCPA is not the problem, and everyone at the park will agree on that.
Even those individuals that were a part of the task force will say the only reason why they joined the RA task force is to make sure the Reston Dog Park had an equal voice on the perceived noise issue, that was what this task force was initially created to address, the task force was not initially to point out landscaping issues we usually work with FCPA to address unless they were related to noise reduction.
If RA is taking on Reston Dog Park landscaping issues are we to go to them in the future, who should we contact? We’re just not sure what RA is thinking. Maybe it has something to do Michael Sanio, the Vice President of the Reston Association, being a member of Longwood Grove as we all found out after the task force completed. He is openly voicing agreement with the five families who brought the lawsuit, but that would also be a huge conflict of interest and it would seem like we should have known he was a member of Longwood Grove while making spending recommendations. Read More
The ideas range from paid monitors to charging fee for users to installing noise mitigation and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements.
The working group, which was formed last spring in response complaints for a group of RA members who live close to the park, will present its recommendations at Thursday’s RA Board meeting.
RA has no jurisdiction over the park, as it is on Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) land. The involvement of RA was to bring both sides together to suggest solutions to the FCPA The RA Board will discuss and vote on one of two motions:
- Move to approve, deny, or amend the short and long-term recommendations of the Dog Park Task Force on improving the operation of the Baron Cameron Dog Park for the benefit of the Dog Park users and surrounding neighbors; or
- Direct staff to send a letter, outlining Dog Park recommendations and request for a meeting to discuss such recommendations, to the Fairfax County Park Authority Chairs, and copied to the whole Park Authority Board; the Fairfax County Park Authority Director, Sara Baldwin; and Fairfax County Hunter Mill District Supervisor, Catherine M. Hudgins.
It’s a saga that has been going on for several years.
The problem is noise, say many residents of Longwood Grove, a subdivision located across Wiehle Avenue from the dog park. The Longwood Grove residents say they can hear dogs barking at the park day and night, and it is affecting their quality of life. Read More
A Fairfax County judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against the Fairfax County Park Authority that called for the shutdown of the off-leash dog area at Baron Cameron Park.
In March of 2014, five homeowners who live in Longwood Grove, a subdivision located across Wiehle Avenue from Baron Cameron Park, where the dog park is located, filed suit against the FCPA and a nonprofit group that runs the park, saying the park constitutes a private nuisance.
The complaint cited several previous Virginia rulings dealing with the definition of a nuisance. It claimed 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.
Longwood Grove has about 100 homes. The families that brought the suit live closest to the dog run — about 300-400 feet away.
Fairfax County Park Authority Board Chair Bill Bouie said the case against FCPA was dismissed without merit. The dog park, Reston’s only off-leash area, is operated by the nonprofit Reston Dogs, Inc., which was also named in the lawsuit.
“I am very pleased that the judge ruled in the Park Authority’s favor this valuable amenity in the community has been preserved,” said Bouie. “We will still work to mitigate any issues that are violations with our partners and neighbors.”
Moira Callaghan, speaking for the Longwood plaintiffs, said the group is considering an appeal and the case is not over. She added that the case against Reston Dogs is still pending.
“We are disappointed with the judge’s ruling that our nuisance claim, which the judge acknowledged as valid, could not go forward against the Park Authority,” she said. “However, the case has not been dismissed and Reston Dogs is still a defendant. We are considering an appeal as we feel it is wrong and unfair that the park authority would be given legal immunity from a nuisance that it created and continues to maintain.”
Earlier this year, the Longwood Grove residents submitted a Mastenbrook Grant application to the park authority seeking a grant to move the dog park to Lake Fairfax Park as a solution.
Callaghan said the park authority has not responded to the grant proposal.
“We will continue to work towards a solution to this problem that we feel would be beneficial to the community as whole,” she said in an e-mail. “This was the purpose of our Mastenbrook Grant proposal, under which we offered to contribute $15,000 of our own money to a public project to create a bigger and better dog park that would not adversely affect nearby neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the Park Authority has not yet officially responded to our proposal.”
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, according to the park authority.
Baron Cameron Dog Park/file photo
For more than 15 years, the off-leash dog park at Reston’s Baron Cameron Park has been a place for dog owners to let the pets frolic freely and play with other dogs in a safe, enclosed area.
Enough, says a group of nearby residents. They say the dog park is a noisy nuisance and they want it to go away.
The families have hired an attorney to file a lawsuit against Reston Dogs, Inc., the dog park’s supporting group, as well as Fairfax County Park Authority, which owns Baron Cameron Park. The people upset about the noise live in the Longwood Grove subdivision, which is separated from the dog run by a buffer area of trees, as well as four lanes of Wiehle Avenue.
“My firm represents several residents in the Longwood Grove neighborhood located across the street from the Baron Cameron OLDA [off-leash dog area],” wrote attorney Zachary Williams of the firm Bean, Kinney & Korman. “The operation of this dog park has caused these residents to suffer constant and excessive nuisance noise for many years.”
More from Williams:
Barking dogs at the dog park continue to seriously impact the quality of life for my clients on a daily basis. Incessant barking regularly awakens my clients in the early morning hours and continues throughout the day and evening. In recognition of this problem, the Park Authority recently installed noise mitigation fencing around a portion of the dog park in an attempt to dampen the noise. Unfortunately, the new fencing has had little effect on the impact of the dog park noise for my clients.
At this time, my clients firmly believe that the only way to fix this problem is to close and/or move the Baron Cameron dog park to a new location. Given the ongoing Baron Cameron Master Plan revision process, now is an opportune time to close the dog park so that this area of Baron Cameron Park can be redeveloped in a manner that is compatible with surrounding neighborhoods.
Williams, who did not return phone calls from Reston Now, said the residents have been expressing concerns to Reston Dogs and the park authority for years and have now run out of patience.
Baron Cameron Park is in the midst of a new master plan process, which could add more features to the park as well as change the configuration. One conceptual plan has the dog park moving to a spot farther into the interior of the park. Some residents of the same Longwood Grove neighborhood have also been outspoken against the idea of building an indoor recreation center with a 50-meter-pool in the park. They cite noise, traffic issues and loss of green space among their concerns.
Park Authority Chair Bill Bouie, a Reston resident, 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 dog park regulars agree. On a recent Tuesday morning, about a half-dozen dogs rolled and played in the snow with only an occasional bark. One owner, a dog park regular, said the scene was “very normal.”
“When a dog barks, most owners are on it,” said Matt Taylor, there with his dog Pebbles. “There is going to be a certain amount of barking at a dog park, though.”
John Vockley, also a daily park visitor with his mixed breed, Taylor, says the dog run is just not that close to the homes.
“Those homes are across a main street,'” he said. “I can’t tell what they are hearing that is so loud and onerous they can’t deal with it. I think there is nothing in the park that rises to the county’s excessive noise ordinance level.”
The woman told police the incident occurred at 11:15 a.m. She described the suspect as black and in his 40s.
Baron Cameron Park is located in the 11300 block of Baron Cameron Avenue. The off-leash area is a popular spot for dogs. Dog park advocates have been adamant that the dog area stay even if the park is redeveloped as part of the Fairfax County Park Authority Master Plan or if a new Reston Community Center recreational facility is built in the park.
On Tuesday, the dog park was also mentioned as part of the public hearing on a new Fairfax County noise ordinance. Residents who live near the dog run think the new noise rules do not go far enough to protect them.