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Locals push for dog park in Virginia Square

A group of Virginia Square and Ballston residents are looking to get a dog park established in their neighborhood.

The neighbors want a fenced-in area for their pets to play off-leash at Quincy Park and are eyeing some sparsely-used green space near the sand volleyball court, says organizer Lori Meyers.

“We are asking for something very simple: some fence and a green space,” Meyers said. “The dogs need to get out and exercise.”

Arlington County doesn’t have enough dog parks to meet the needs of local dog owners, according to the Public Spaces Master Plan adopted in 2019. Dog owners and Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation say the pandemic may have exacerbated that need, as more people adopted dogs during the pandemic and, with the rise of telework, are more able to take them out for exercise.

The neighbors started a petition to gauge support and distributed a survey to determine the need. So far, more than 160 people have signed the petition.

Organizers say they intend to collect the money needed to build a fence and install a dog waste station.

Rosslyn residents, who pushed for a dog park two years ago, went through a similar process to get an interim dog park at Gateway Park. It opened in February.

The newest dog park effort comes as owners say their dogs aren’t able to get enough exercise locally, while the parks department and the Animal Welfare League of Arlington note that complaints of off-leash dogs and dog waste on athletic fields have risen over the last year.

“We’re going to try and get this park created and solve the problems,” Meyers said.

Meyers says the nearest dog park in Clarendon is not walkable and is not popular among her neighbors. She added that a few dogs have needed veterinarian attention after playing in the water features at the park, which has had maintenance issues in the past.

At the more convenient Quincy Park, dogs cannot use the grass field over concerns of dog waste, and — as with all county parks — going off-leash is not allowed outside of designated dog runs and parks, a longstanding county rule. Additionally, Meyers said she and the other dog owners avoid other parts of the park where food gets left out for squirrels.

For a while, dog owners dropped their leashes on the field anyway because it is the only fenced-in part of the park and thus the safest place for dogs to run, Meyers said. She noted that owners were careful to pick up pet waste, so that the student and recreational athletes who use the field don’t get an unwelcome surprise while diving for a ball.

Going off-leash waned after Animal Control officers upped patrols at Quincy Park, she said, adding that officers have recently taken pictures of dog owners and called them out for having leashes that are too long.

“When we have responded to these types of concerns, such as in Quincy Park, we have found large groups of pet owners meeting up in the field/athletic space and letting their dogs off leash,” said Jennifer Toussaint, the animal control chief for AWLA. “One pet owner does it, so another does, and then on. Suddenly community members no longer feel safe bringing their children to the park to play.”

While dog park supporters say a dedicated facility for their pups would resolve these issues, Kalish says that’s not the only way to improve this situation.

“The best solution to keep dogs and people safe in Arlington is to follow the rules,” she said.

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