The much-loved Shirlington Dog Park could get smaller under plans being discussed by the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group.
Three alternatives have been put forward for the park along Four Mile Run, including one that would reduce it to approximately 27,000 square feet, known as Alternative 1. The park would be cut in half at the current S. Oxford Street entrance, with the area west of Oxford Street reforested and the park running between S. Oxford and Oakland Streets.
The other two proposals would have the park at around 55,000 square feet (Alternative 2A) or 47,000 square feet (Alternative 2B). Both incorporate a proposed, expanded portion of parkland along S. Oakland Street.
A spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation said that new plans are being explored for the dog park due to concerns around stormwater management. Jennie Dean Park and Shirlington Park are also being planned as part of the working group’s wider look at Four Mile Run’s future and a parks master planning process.
The possible reduction in size of the dog park is not quite as drastic a change as earlier rumors — that the county was planning to “move the dog park and make it much smaller, or do away with it” — had suggested. It has, however, sparked loud opposition from supporters of the dog park on social media, including on the park’s unofficial Facebook page.
“Just out of curiosity, what happened to the chorus of reassurances we got from the board reps just a couple of weeks or months ago about them not touching the park?” wrote one supporter. “I don’t know what bothers me more; the fact they continue to push initiatives that put the park at risk or that they misled supporters to believe the park was safe as-is.”
An online petition against the proposal has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
“4 Mile Run Shirlington Dog Park is the best dog park in Northern Virginia,” wrote one signee. “One of the biggest reasons is its current layout. The small dog area, the water access, and the lengthy, open run area, as well as the seating, provide the best experience. Please do not alter this dog park!”
“It is an all too rare NOVA stress reliever that should be protected, not changed or reduced in size,” wrote another.
A separate Facebook group has also been started dedicated to saving the dog park and energizing supporters.
Parks department spokeswoman Martha Holland said there are no “short term” plans to change the park, but didn’t rule out longer-term changes due to state water runoff rules.
“Currently there is no immediate funding or intention on changing the configuration of the Shirlington Dog Park in the short term, however as capital renovations happen in the future or significant maintenance is needed in the parks, state mandated stormwater management standards will need to addressed,” she said. “County staff is working with the County-Board appointed Four Mile Run Valley Working Group on developing a plan for the park to meet state requirements and community interests.”
“The county recognizes that the Shirlington Dog Park, one of eight Arlington County dog parks that residents and their pets enjoy, is a tremendous and much-beloved resource for the county and there has never been any intention to remove it from the area,” she said.
The County Board is set to adopt the parks master plan for the three parks early next year. Public input on the draft concepts will be taken in July.
Rumors of the Shirlington dog park’s demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
The latest round of drafts released by the county for the Four Mile Run Valley initiative include the park in the plans for Jennie Dean Park. Three alternatives put forward for a meeting of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group held Tuesday night all include the dog park in some form.
The first option keeps the park as it is, while the second option proposed reconfiguring the dog park but keeping it the same size. The third alternative would also keep the dog park in place, but renovate it.
Notably, the second alternative would divide the dog park into two sections: one for larger animals and another for smaller.
The alternatives also make suggestions for programming to the west of South Nelson Street, which could include more arts and recreation space. It also suggests a number of amenities for the park in the site’s northeast corner, like sport courts, baseball fields, a playground and a trail. All three alternatives also propose adding to the site’s 136 existing parking spaces.
The park’s future had been the cause of some concern earlier this year on social media.
The Shirlington Dog Park Page cited a presentation of early land use proposals generated in January as part of the Four Mile Run Valley planning process. However, the presentation appeared to show that the area of the dog park is being considered generally for “outdoor parks/rec/cultural” uses — which could include a dog park.
“The County recognizes the popularity and importance of the Shirlington Dog Park and does not plan to move it from the park or the park plan,” division chief Chikwe Njoku wrote in an email to a dog park page subscriber last month.
“As part of any planning effort we have to do our due diligence and evaluate the existing site in addition to making recommendations on potential alternatives that are based on a variety of factors such as environmental regulations, overall design/impact, usage, and other County standards, then make recommendations that are discussed with the 4MRV Working Group who also takes input from the community.”
The Four Mile Run Valley Working Group will meet again March 15 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Park and Natural Resources Operations Building at 2700 S. Taylor St.
Arlington County, the page said, has a plan “to move the dog park and make it much smaller, or do away with it.” It’s unclear who exactly posted that on behalf of the page — there is no contact information on the page’s “About” section — but the reaction from its more than 2,500 fans was swift.
“Whaaaattt??? Noooo!!!!” and “This is bullshit. (Sorry for the language, but it’s that serious)” were typical responses.
“That’s insane,” said another person. “The dog park is one of the biggest draws of the area for people when considering places to live; plus, people come from all over to use it = lots of money into [Shirlington]!”
In all, there have been some 200 responses and comments on the post and another 175 shares, so far. It has been re-posted, separately, by concerned residents on a Fairlington neighborhood Facebook page and elsewhere around the social network.
The Shirlington Dog Park Page cites a source for its alarming assertion: a presentation of early land use proposals generated last month as part of the Four Mile Run Valley planning process. However, the presentation appears to show that the area of the dog park is being considered generally for “outdoor parks/rec/cultural” uses — which could well include a dog park.
Only one of seven alternative scenarios presented shows the dog park apparently replaced — by a “riparian zone” and a promenade.
Virginia Farris, a member of the Four Mile Run Valley working group who’s also active in the Shirlington Civic Association, offered one of the 75 comments on the Facebook post.
“There is no proposal from the County yet, nor will there be for awhile yet,” she wrote. “The Working Group meets twice a month and the planning process still has a long way to go. The Dog Park has solid supporters among Working Group members — it’s definitely not going to be closed!”
Her post received seven likes as more than a dozen additional comments from people upset about the possibility of the park closing followed. Dog park supporters, in the meantime, are being encouraged to write emails to all five County Board members, with some pledging to do so every day until they get a favorable response.
The page, and Farris, are also encouraging dog park supporters to attend a meeting of the working group Tuesday night. The meeting, scheduled from 7-10 p.m. on the second floor of 2700 S. Taylor Street, will include a discussion of the land use plans and a 15 minute public comment period at the end.
“If you come… you can expect to hear a lot of questions and push-back from the Working Group members on many aspects (including the dog park) of the second set of conceptual drawings,” Farris said.
County officials have struggled to respond to the rumors as they spread like wildfire, with thousands of Facebook users likely seeing the original dog park post.
The Dept. of Parks and Recreation did respond to the post, just an hour after it was first published (see gallery above), but the response was buried since it was made to a comment on the post rather than the post itself.
At 5:35 p.m. Tuesday evening, six hours after our first enquiry about plans for the dog park, a county spokesperson responded to ARLnow.com but did not directly address what was being considered.
“There will be four ideas proposed at tonight’s 4MRV meeting,” said Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “This is just a first step to get feedback. There will be another meeting solely on getting input on the dog park on March 18 from 9-11 a.m. at the Park Operations Building.”
A county webpage for the March meeting says it will “discuss opportunities for improvements to the Shirlington Dog Park as part of the overall 4MRV Parks Master Plan.”
“This is an opportunity to share your ideas for the dog park with DPR staff and learn more about the 4MRV park planning process,” the page said.
“To look at the bright side,” concluded Kalish, “there is obviously a lot of support for the dog park and we should be able to get lots of great input to make it better through the Parks Master Planning process.”
Arlington Sending Officers to Inauguration — Updated at 10:55 a.m. — The Arlington County Police Department is assigning “more than a hundred” officers to help with inauguration security on Friday. Like other local departments, ACPD will sending some of its officers to D.C. to assist the Metropolitan Police Department. Others will be assigned to Metro stations or areas where large crowds are expected. [WJLA]
Local Inauguration Day Event — A number of local nonprofits, from the Arlington Food Assistance Center to activist groups like Moms Demand Action, will be participating in an “alternative” Inauguration Day event at the Barcroft Community House. The event encourages attendees to “explore how you can get involved in their important causes” and “post your thoughts about how we, as citizens of Arlington, can work to further our common good as we face new tests to our society and democracy after Inauguration Day.” [ARLnow, Facebook]
Senators Hope New Administration Will Fund Bridge Repairs — Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have written a letter to two of president-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees, asking them to “do all in your power to see that the rehabilitation of Memorial Bridge is fully funded.” The senators note that the weight limit imposed on the bridge has forced some changes to inauguration plans. [Scribd]
Arlington Jeopardy Contestant Keeps Winning — Arlington resident John Avila, 30, again bested his fellow contestants on last night’s episode of Jeopardy, his second appearance on the show. Avila, an attorney, will face a high school physics teacher from Indiana and a writer from Brooklyn on tonight’s episode. [Sun Chronicle]
Small Dog Owners Want Separate Area of Dog Park — A group of owners of small dogs have proposed a separate small dog zone at the Fort Ethan Allen Park community canine area. There are currently two other dog parks in Arlington with separate small dog areas. [InsideNova]
Remembering Preston King — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark recounts the life and times of Preston King, for whom the Westover Post Office is named. King was killed while bailing out of his plane in the midst of a reconnaissance mission during World War II. [Falls Church News-Press]
There’s a new sign at the Shirlington dog park that states what should have been obvious: that riding a bike or a scooter through an area where dogs are running around off leash is a bad idea.
“It’s been an ongoing issue that we hope the sign will rectify,” said Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “We’ve noticed that people are riding bikes and scooters down the paved trail in Shirlington dog park. The off leash dogs get excited and chase, creating an unsafe environment for both man and beast.”
“As there are loads of trails in Arlington for bikes, we are asking people not to bring their bikes and scooters into the park to reduce the risk to park-goers,” Kalish added. “This… is an example of our ongoing work with the community to make Arlington parks fun and safe for all.”
The sign asks that anyone who spots a violation of the rules call Arlington’s park rangers at 703-525-0618.
The second annual Bark in the Park event will be taking place this Sunday, June 12, after being rescheduled due to anticipated storms last weekend.
The free event will be taking place at the James Hunter Dog Park, also known as the Clarendon dog park, from 3-6 p.m.
The event will feature live music by Americana group Caroline Ferrante and the Whole Magilla, bites from the Smoking Kow BBQ food truck, and plenty of activities and goodies for human children and four-legged “kids” alike. Dog exhibitors will also be on hand to answer any pet related questions.
There is still time to enter the event’s first annual “Cutest Pooch Contest.” Dog owners can upload a photo of their pup, while any animal lover can vote for their favorites. The winning entry will receive pet- and owner-appropriate prizes.
That’s what Arlington County is telling dogs and their owners who got stuck inside the James Hunter Community Canine Area (1299 N. Herndon Street) in Clarendon Friday evening.
A faulty latch is being blamed for the stuck gate that prevented dog park users from leaving. The fire department responded and removed the latch, allowing people and their pets to head home. A welder was scheduled to work on the gate today.
Arlington County issued a light-hearted press release about the incident today (see below), with the title, “Ruff Night Ends in Tails of Joy: We now know who let the dogs out.”
The Arlington County Fire Department came to the rescue of some two dozen pups plus their people last Friday after an inner gate froze closed around dinner time at Clarendon’s James Hunter Park’s dog park.
No one was howling to leave, but once firefighters removed the stubborn, industrial-grade latch, almost half the pooches and their biped pals hightailed it home, authorities reported.
“We want to apologize to the dogs and their owners,” said Jane Rudolph, director of the County Department of Parks and Recreation. “That gate had a date with the welder today.”
Park locks and latches are checked regularly and lubricated and adjusted as needed.
All eight of Arlington’s dog parks are open from sunrise until a half-hour after sunset unless otherwise designated.
The James Hunter dog park closes at 9 p.m.
File photo courtesy Arlington County
Van Doren, Talento Win Dem Endorsement — Tannia Talento and incumbent Nancy Van Doren convincingly won the Democratic endorsement caucus for School Board last week. Talento and Van Doren were the most-endorsed candidates in the race. They will now move on to the November general election. [InsideNova]
Female WW2 Pilots Gain Burial Rights at ANC — Bipartisan legislation signed by President Obama has granted Women Airforce Service Pilots, who served during World War II, formal burial rights at Arlington National Cemetery. Those rights were revoked due to a Dept. of Defense legal finding and policy change last year. [Voice of America]
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Arlington County officials have reportedly shut down a popular fenced-in “dog run” outside of a Rosslyn apartment community.
In a memo to residents of the Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue apartments on N. Quinn Street, building managers say that they’ve been ordered to remove the fence around the dog play area.
The decision, managers say in the memo, came from new Arlington Acting Zoning Administrator Arlova Vonhm, who decreed that a permit for building the fence around the nearly two-year-old dog run should never have been approved by the county.
Jace Bauer, a local resident, said that the dog run is “convenient and much enjoyed.” Via email, Bauer said the loss of the area is a blow for residents and for dogs.
“I recently moved to Arlington and have found this small, fenced in area to be a great spot in our community,” Bauer said. “I have met so many wonderful people in my first few months here while taking my one year old border collie mix out for a game of fetch. The nearest dog park (Clarendon) is a 30 minute walk, which is not practical for a quick morning or evening outing.”
The memo from building management, which suggests legal action may follow, is below.
Dear Residents of Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue,
A few months ago Arlington County received a complaint from our neighbors regarding the dog walk area by the leasing office. We have been attempting to work with Arlington County Zoning officials to comply with their requirements and appease our neighbors. Although this area has existed for almost two years, the Zoning Administrator, Ms. Arlova Vonhm, has decreed that the approved permit should not have been approved. Her decision is that the fence violates Arlington County Zoning ordinance and must be removed or we will be subject to fines and legal action for noncompliance. Ms. Vonhm has also been presented with multiple plans to relocate the dog walk to other areas of our property, all of which have been denied.
As such, tomorrow, November 20th, we will be removing the fence to comply with their order. Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue have always been pet loving communities and it gives us great displeasure to have to do this. Please take some comfort that we do not consider this matter closed. We will be obtaining legal counsel to bring this issue to the attention of the Arlington County Board (http://countyboard.arlingtonva.us/county-board-members) and County Manager, Mark Schwartz.
The next scheduled Arlington County Board Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, January 24th at 8:30am at 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Room 307.
Thank you for choosing Rosslyn Heights and Rosslyn Vue as your home and for your patience and understanding as we work through this situation.
Rosslyn Heights Team
In an email Vonhm, the Acting Zoning Administrator, confirmed to ARLnow.com that today was the deadline for the apartment’s property manager to remove the fence, after it was determined that the county had mistakenly issued a permit for its construction contrary to the property’s approved site plan.
The site plan calls for only landscaping in the area where the dog run now is, Vonhm determined, after receiving complaints from neighbors. She noted that the property manager has the option of applying for a site plan amendment.
“The County’s position is that the fence changes the nature of how the space is used, and creates the problem of dogs running loose and creating excessive noise,” said Vonhm. “The option of applying for a site plan amendment is still open to the property manager, even after the fence is removed. The County has worked in good faith with the property manager to come up with a viable solution that addresses the neighbors’ concerns about noise from the dogs.”
Photo courtesy Jace Bauer
Despite the cries of many residents for more open, green space in the county, not all park goers are happy with the parks that currently exist in Arlington.
Among otherwise glowing reviews, there are a number of one, two or three star Yelp reviews of parks in Arlington, detailing the numerous problems some visitors experience.
Complaints ranged from the park’s design, lack of proper cleanup by park employees or that the park just didn’t have enough to offer.
Parks in Arlington aren’t alone in receiving negative comments. In honor of the National Park Service’s 99th birthday, the publication Mother Jones this week shared some not-so-nice reviews of national parks across the country, in a post entitled “I Can’t Stop Reading One-Star Yelp Reviews of National Parks.”
James Hunter Park
James Hunter Park (1299 N. Herndon Street) — the Clarendon dog park — is dog-friendly, and has an open lawn, water feature and a “plaza terrace,” according to the park’s website. However, one reviewer claims the park was not designed with dogs in mind.
A man was transported to Virginia Hospital Center after crashing into the fence of the Shirlington dog park this morning.
According to multiple witnesses, the driver of the Dodge sedan revved his engine on S. Oxford Street and sped into the fence of the park, smashing through the chain links, metal poles and a tree. An Arlington County Fire Department source on the scene said he suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The driver was an employee of Arlington Collision Center, the body shop’s manager confirmed to ARLnow.com, and the Dodge was a car the shop was servicing.
Witnesses said the car barreled through the entrance to the park, but no dogs or owners were hurt in the crash. One witness said the car “wasn’t just parked and he revved his engine. He sped into the fence.”
Another witness said the driver never lost consciousness, but went into shock a couple of minutes after the crash occurred. ACFD’s rescue crew had to use its “jaws of life” device to tear the roof off the vehicle to remove the driver and place him on a stretcher.
The owner of Wag More Dogs daycare and boarding center right next to the park, Kim Houghton, told ARLnow.com employees of the collision center “race these cars” down Oxford Street “all the time.”
“From where the end of the street is to here, they just gun it with the wrecked cars they have,” Houghton said. S. Oxford Street is only a few hundred feet long. “I’ve told them they need to go slow because there are people letting their dogs out and it’s dangerous.”
The collision center’s manager declined further comment. No other injuries were reported.
The entrance to the dog park was severely damaged in the crash, and it’s unclear how functional the dog park will be until the county can repair it.
Maintenance issues continue to irk some patrons of James Hunter Park, the $1.6 million dog park at the corner of N. Herndon and 13th Streets in Clarendon.
Most recently, the gate at the front of the park on N. Herndon Street was vandalized and had to be removed, according to Arlington Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Roberta Korzen. Parks staff hopes to have a new door in place by early next week.
In addition, the artificial turf in front of the park’s water feature is currently roped off because it had to be replaced. Korzen said the sand base underneath the turf “hadn’t been compacted to the degree it should have been.” The manufacturer is replacing the turf under warranty, which she said also should be done by the end of the week.
Many residents have complained that the large stone water feature hasn’t been working for months; Korzen said it simply hasn’t been turned on yet, and, like many other water facilities in Arlington parks, it will be turned on for the summer this weekend. The water fountains to fill up dog bowls work, but the ones intended for human water consumption were both not functioning early Wednesday afternoon.
These issues add to complaints of some residents when the park opened in October. Among those complaints were the dust raised by the “crushed stone” surface that comprises a majority of the surface area in the canine community area.
One park visitor ARLnow.com spoke to today said the lack of shade is her biggest issue. Her dog was huddled under a table, the only place for shade in the dog area. Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.com when the park opened that “shade was quite a challenge for our design team.” Parks staff installed trees around the park with the hope that, “in time,” they will grow to provide shade.
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) James Hunter Park, the long-delayed multipurpose park in Clarendon, held its grand opening Monday night.
The park has an area for dogs and amenities like a picnic area and demonstration garden for people. Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada helped cut the ribbon on the $1.6 million park, located at the corner of N. Herndon and 13th Streets.
But there have been some grumbles about the new park. The “crushed stone” surface, one of three installed at the dog park, has particular raised concern among residents.
“The gravel surface designed for the dogs to pee and poop on raises a lot of dust for the dogs and people to breathe,” wrote one park visitor. “One friend complained the stuff gets on the dogs and they are carrying it into the house. The same friend report the gravel got stuck in the paws of his dog.”
County Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the crushed stone “is common in urban dog parks,” and an underground irrigation system is in place to prevent dust. Kalish said the “pros and cons” of each surface — there is also synthetic turf and a rubberized surface — is why park planners decided to install all three.
Another complaint was that water in the fountain was chlorinated and murky with gravel. A sign warns against dogs drinking out of the fountain, yet some four-legged visitors have been spotted drinking out it anyway.
“Apparently the dog[s] can’t read the sign that says not to,” one resident said.
“Because we recycle the water in the fountain, we treat it with pool chemicals,” Kalish said. “Unless treated, water in fountains will promote the growth of algae and bacteria. While we know that dogs have been swimming in pools all over the nation for decades and therefore believe that the chlorine content in the water feature is low enough that most dogs won’t have issues, we wanted to warn people as every pet is different. If a dog is well-hydrated prior to playing in the fountain he or she will be less likely to drink much pool water. We’ve got a freeze-proof water fountain in the dog park area for them to use.”
Residents have also complained of a lack of shade in the evenings, heating up the metal benches to an uncomfortably high temperatures. Kalish said park planners expected problems along those lines.
“Shade was quite a challenge for our design team,” Kalish wrote in an email. “The park has plenty of shade in the morning, but it does lack shade in the afternoon — a problem during summer months. We planted trees around the park so that in time they will grow to dramatically increase shade.”
Photo (above) courtesy of Guus Bosman
Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Patti Page picked the right dog, but Arlington County did not.
As we learned late last Friday, the opening of the Clarendon dog park will be delayed yet again.
Arlington is touting the “good news” that the Clarendon dog park supposedly is still on budget at $1.6 million. These latest developments raise more questions than can be answered in one column. I will answer three today:
Should it have cost $1.6 million to build this dog park? Can the $1.6 million be justified because “this is more than just a dog park”? Does this dog park inspire confidence in the County’s decision making?
The answer to all three questions is: NO. So what should it have cost?
I often find myself on opposite sides of the political fence from Arlington civic activist Tim Wise. But in this case, Tim has prepared an excellent analysis of what it has cost in the past to build dog parks in Arlington. Tim concluded that the County spent over $700,000 more on the Clarendon dog park than was justified by the costs of earlier dog parks. Anyone can quibble with this or that detail, but I agree with Tim’s bottom line: Arlington spent hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars more on this dog park than it should have.
Was it worth the extra $700,000?
The key to arriving at the right answer to this question are the frames of reference with which one should answer it. Those frames of reference include recognizing the “new normal” of Arlington’s economy and adopting a “core services” approach to Arlington’s budget priorities. Within those frames, the extra elements Arlington included in this dog park never should have been included in the first place. Arlington could have built a very attractive replacement dog park on this site for $900,000.
Why did Arlington go wrong?
The County went wrong because it failed to recognize that:
- The economy it enjoyed prior to the “Great Recession” is not coming back,
- The $700,000 premium that it misspent on this project would have been better spent on core services like schools, fire, police, or road maintenance, and therefore
- It has the wrong budget priorities in place.
It is bad news that Arlington spent $1.6 million on the Clarendon dog park.
Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
This time, Parks and Recreation Department spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the main features of the park have been installed, but issues with fencing and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance have pushed the park further off schedule. Kalish this time did not give an expected date, but said the park should open by the end of the summer, and “hopefully sooner.”
“We’re in the home stretch,” she said in an email.
James Hunter Park, as it’s called, is located at N. Herndon and 13th Streets. It’s planned to be a 0.71-acre park with both dog- and people-friendly features like a community canine area, pathways, site furnishings, public art, lighting, and landscaping, all of which have already been installed.
The park was delayed in the spring because of unforeseen issues with the park site, characterized as difficult soils, grading issues and “buried structures.”
This time, the specific ADA regulations regarding fencing and railing pushed the opening back. ADA requires dog parks and recreational spaces to have such facilities installed and then approved by compliance officers before the park can open to the public, Kalish said.
“We cannot open the park until the site is ADA compliant and all final inspections are approved,” Kalish wrote in an email.
The renovated park had an original opening date of summer 2012 before being pushed back to February 2013, then late spring of this year, and, in March, park planners said they expected to be open in July.
“We share the community’s frustration over the delayed opening and continue daily inspections of the contractor’s work to provide the best product as expeditiously as possible,” Jane Rudolph, Arlington’s Park and Recreation director, said in a press release. “The good news is that despite the timeline extension, the County has remained within the [$1.6 million] park construction budget.”