Press Club
Abingdon Elementary School’s field (via Google Maps)

Abingdon Elementary School says its grounds are getting too many unauthorized daytime visits from people looking to exercise or walk their dogs.

Some neighbors have been using the playground and field at 3035 S. Abingdon Street during the school day, which is against school rules, according to Arlington Public Schools and a nearby Fairlington condo association.

Signage throughout the property reminds residents that school hours start at 7 a.m. and end at 6 p.m., APS says.

The Fairlington Villages condo association took to Twitter last week to remind its residents of school rules after receiving complaints from the Abingdon community. The condos at 3001 S. Abingdon Street are a stone’s throw from the elementary school.

The association reminded residents that these facilities are to be used exclusively by students and faculty during the posted hours. Pet owners should not bring their dogs to the field after-hours, either, it added.

“This will eliminate the health risks to children who might otherwise encounter pet waste,” it said.

APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said Abingdon staff have also had to enforce school rules.

“Abingdon staff have spoken to community members to let them know that access to the track and playground is not allowed during the school day,” he said. “Contact with the condo association was made through a PTA parent who connected them with an Abingdon staff member.”

He took the opportunity to reiterate school rules about using public playgrounds and fields.

“While school is in session, the playgrounds are reserved for the use of APS students for the school day,” Bellavia said. “We ask that community members refrain from using school grounds for other activities, such as practicing sports, dog training, using the school as a cut-through or other activities during school hours.”

Abingdon is bordered by a 0.8-acre, county-owned public green space called Fort Reynolds Park (4585 31st Street S.), and connected to the park by a trail.

While pets are not allowed at the park, pet owners can exercise their dogs at the Shirlington Dog Park (2710 S. Oakland Street) and the Utah Dog Park (3191 S. Utah Street), both of which are a little more than a mile away.

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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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Construction on the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City has reached a new milestone, as crews turn to revamping the adjacent green space.

Work on the office complex, located at the corner of 13th Street S. and S. Eads Street, remains on schedule, according to an Amazon spokesperson. The site is comprised of two, 22-story office buildings dubbed Met Park 6 and 7/8 and the forthcoming park area.

Clark Construction, which is overseeing the development, officially got started on the green space — also named Metropolitan Park — last week, according to an email the company sent Friday. Fencing around the site has been expanded to surround the existing park to maintain public safety during this work.

“We anticipate excavation activities will begin in the park area in mid-November,” the email reads.

The existing park space was mostly used as a place for dogs to run around and relieve themselves, though this summer it was home to a farmers market. The new $14 million park — designed by the firm behind New York City’s famous High Line — will feature more than two acres of public open space, including signature landscapes such as a forest walk, an edible garden and children’s play garden, as well as a dedicated dog run and community tables.

“Crews will excavate the existing park, removing 10,000 cubic yards of soil over the next several months,” Jeff King, Clark’s vice-president of construction, said in a video update last month.

This work will move from the edge abutting S. Fair Street to the edge bordering the office buildings, he said. This winter, crews will install drainage and irrigation systems and haul in new dirt to support the future park’s varied topography and vegetation.

“Our construction schedules time with planting seasons, with the first planting set to take place in spring 2022,” King said.

For dog owners nearby, the loss of the green space means frequenting other local parks.

“I know many of our neighbors use the park space daily,” King said. “We recognize that the shared community asset provides the space to walk your dogs, enjoy the outdoors and socialize.”

Knowing this, he said Clark Construction and Amazon spent several months this year sprucing up Virginia Highlands Park.

Clark Construction workers make improvements to Virginia Highlands Park (via Clark Construction)

King said the efforts were to ensure “it’s a great place and a respite for outdoor activities and community gatherings while met park is under construction.”

Amazon helped fund the creation of temporary dog parks at Virginia Highlands Park, along the 15th Street S. side of the park, which were installed earlier this year. Dog owners also have access to a few other parks within a mile of the fenced-off park, including Grace Murray Hopper Park (1401 S. Joyce Street), the temporary “Gateway Green” park (101 12th Street S.) and Long Bridge Park.

Area parks and their distance from Metropolitan Park (via Clark Construction)

Meanwhile, construction crews are completing one floor of the two office buildings about every week and a half, King said.

“Our crews have made significant progress on the site,” he said. “We anticipate topping both 22-story office buildings out in spring of 2022.”

Installation of the building’s façade will continue over the next 12 months, he said. Inside, crews are installing electrical and mechanical systems, sprinklers and drywall.

In its email, Clark noted there will be intermittent traffic stops in the coming weeks on the corner of S. Elm Street and 15th Street S. for deliveries.

Portions of 13th Street S. between S. Eads Street and S. Elm Street, as well as portions of S. Elm Street between 15th Street S. and 14th Street S., will be closed periodically to maintain concrete pump and truck access. Flaggers will assist with traffic flow, and road users will be able to access driveways, loading docks and entry points for adjacent buildings.

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A raccoon (via Jonnelle Yankovich/Unsplash)

There was a rabid raccoon on the loose in Arlington that came into contact with a number of dogs.

Last week, Arlington animal control responded to an incident involving multiple dogs and a raccoon at the heavily-visited Shirlington Dog Park at 2710 S. Oakland Street.

The raccoon was removed and, later, tested clinically positive for rabies — a disease that both humans and animals can get from a scratch or a bit from an infected animal.

This is not the first time in recent memory a rabid animal has threatened Arlington humans and their furry best friends. In May, a potentially rabid fox bit two people near Lacey Woods Park. In February and March, a rabies outbreak in raccoons had pet owners thinking about their own quarantine for their animals.

Animal control is asking residents to make sure their pets are up to date on their vaccines, to keep dogs on a leash and cats inside, to feed pets inside and not to approach wildlife. The department is also asking residents to remove wildlife attractants, such as compost and unsecured garbage cans, from their yards.

“If you, your child, or your pet may have come into contact with any wild animals including bats or raccoons, please call Arlington County Animal Control at 703-931-9241 immediately,” the Animal Welfare League of Arlington said in a message posted on social media. “It is fatal if medical care is not given promptly.”

“Arlington County Animal Control is also urging residents to remain vigilant and if they see any animal that appears sick, lethargic, disoriented, or aggressive to stay away from the animal and call Animal Control immediately,” AWLA said. “If you come across a deceased rabies vector animal (including cats, dogs, foxes, raccoons, and groundhogs) in your yard or a public space please do not handle the animal and contact Animal Control promptly.”

Photo via Jonnelle Yankovich/Unsplash

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

An Arlington couple is launching an app that allows dog owners to find pet-friendly places and swipe right on puppy pals for their pooches.

Pals is an app for dog owners to connect quickly to discover dog-friendly places,” said co-founder Caroline Carini. “We make it easy for you to find other dogs in your area looking to meet, play, run, walk, swim and so much more.”

She and her partner Zachary Feldman, who have their own story meeting on an app, now live in Ballston. They got the idea in January, started developing the app in April, and registered their company in July.

The couple, who met on a dating app, will be launching their dog app at Oakland Park (3705 Wilson Blvd) near Ballston on Thursday, Sept. 9. They will collect donations for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, and there will be dog paraphernalia giveaways from local businesses.

Pals App founders with app renderings (courtesy of Caroline Carini)

She and her boyfriend don’t own dogs now, but both had beloved family dogs growing up. The germ for the idea came from conversations they’ve had about what resources they’d like for their future dogs.

She said the goal of Pals is to turn the moment when dogs “stop and sniff” each other into a conversation where owners find each other on Pals.

“It’s a safe platform to find connections, find dogs you can meet up with, and build relationship with dog owners and dogs,” she said.

Pals also has bandanas for dogs to wear, which Carini said markets the app while reassuring owners meeting up for the first time.

Carini envisions Pals as a one stop shop for people wanting their dogs to socialize with similar dogs in pet-friendly areas, without joining every meetup group or Googling every community event or welcoming spot.

“There’s so much out there now, it’s almost overwhelming,” she said. “The goal would be to have it at your fingertips.”

To get it started, Carini and her partner have added the local dog parks and a few restaurants and bars, but the map will be mostly populated by user submissions.

“Users can add custom locations, if there’s a cool hidden park or spot that’s not technically on Google Maps,” she said.

Since Arlington’s their home, the D.C. area will be the first region for the app — which is lucky given how dog-friendly it is, she said.

Yelp rated Arlington the most dog-friendly place in the nation in 2018, and Arlington had the 10th most dog parks per 100,000 residents in the nation in 2019, according to the Trust for Public Land.

In the future, the couple plans to expand to other cities and launch a” pals plus” subscription, which will give users access to advanced filters for breed size, gender, favorite activities and personality traits.

“If you’re a paid user, the algorithm would provide closer matches to fit your needs,” Carini said.

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Morning Notes

Rosslyn Dog Park Now Open — “Thanks to the support of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District and R-DOGS, there’s a new interim dog park on the western side of Gateway Park. Now that’s something to bark about!” [Arlington County, Instagram]

Arlingtonian Confirmed as U.N. Ambassador — “The Senate voted 78-20 on Tuesday to confirm Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.” The long-time Arlington resident “has promised to restore the U.S. role as a defender of human rights and will look to repair multilateral relationships that fractured under former President Trump.” [Axios]

Crashes on I-395 Yesterday Morning — From the Arlington County Fire Department: “The units from Station 9C ran a three vehicle accident early this morning on 395NB. Upon arrival, they discovered a trapped patient who was quickly extricated. Two patients were treated and transported with non-life threatening injuries.” [Twitter, WUSA 9]

YHS Students to Continue Athletics in College — “A dozen Yorktown High School athletes participated in recent college signing ceremonies to continue their playing careers at the next level.” [InsideNova]

Local Woman Sickened By New Puppy — “An Arlington mother and daughter are warning those interested in purchasing a new pet about a disease called campylobacter. Audrey Glitt was thrilled when her mother, Katrina Metzler, brought home a new puppy named Fernweh as a surprise — but shortly after the dog’s arrival, the excitement quickly faded to worry. ‘I think it was about, a week later after we had gotten her, I started getting really sick and I couldn’t get out of bed,’ said Glitt.” [WDVM]

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Starting today (Tuesday), fencing is set to be installed for an interim dog park in Rosslyn’s Gateway Park.

Work on the dog park, including the installation of lighting and a water fountain, started in 2020. It is slated to finish in the first quarter of 2021, said Mary Ann Elliott, the director of R-Dogs, which is one of the main forces behind the project.

Eventually, the area will be fenced-in, with a section for small and disabled dogs and one for large dogs.

“Fencing is the last major part,” Elliott said.

The interim dog park at 1300 Lee Hwy fills Rosslyn’s growing need for dog parks, of which the county will need three by 2035, according to a county planning document. The temporary facility will be in place until a Park Master Plan is developed and funding becomes available for a potential permanent replacement.

The plan could be finished in 2022 and funded in 2028, Elliott said.

The interim park is the result of nearly three years of work by R-Dogs, a community group-turned-nonprofit, and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.

“It has been a long process with rules and regulations that one comes to find with any rules of county governance,” said Elliott. “I’m very pleased, overall, with the County, and thrilled with what the BID has contributed.”

Mary-Claire Burick, President of the Rosslyn BID, said the park represents a “wonderful partnership” among the County, R-Dogs and the BID to meet the needs of Rosslyn’s growing residential population.

“We are excited to add in a designated place where owners and their pets can safely enjoy the fresh air,” she said in a statement.

The Arlington parks department anticipates a dog park will be considered in the master planning work, but will need to go through a community process before it can be more specific, department spokeswoman Susan Kalish said in an email.

Elliott said the interim dog park will cost about $40,000, and the BID, a veterinary practice, several small businesses and individuals have chipped in to fund it. This sets the dog park apart, she said.

“All of the other dog parks in the County have a sponsor group of community residents, but did not raise money or establish a company with by-laws in order to make it a reality,” she said.

Photo (bottom) via Arlington County

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Planning is underway for a temporary dog park in Rosslyn that could eventually become permanent.

The dog park will be built in an underutilized grassy area on the west end of Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway). The current plans call for it to be divided into a 8,000 square foot section for large dogs and a 2,900 square foot section for small dogs.

A design process for the dog park is now underway and expected to wrap up by the end of the year. A construction timeline has not yet been revealed.

“The facility is proposed to include separate areas to accommodate both large and small dogs, fencing with screening in some areas, upgraded lighting, a water source for dogs, grass surfacing, double entry gates, maintenance gates, repurposed and ADA accessible benches, dog waste receptacles, a message board, and standard County signage,” the project website says.” Gateway Park is currently lighted, and the upgraded lights associated with this project will allow visitors to use the dog park until the lights turn off at 9 p.m.”

The county is seeking feedback on the draft design for the park.

If approved, the temporary park’s approximately $43,700 cost is to be paid by R-DOGS, the private group of Rosslyn area dog owners that has been pushing for a new dog park since 2018. The county parks department will maintain the dog park with help from R-DOGS, which is asking its members to provide feedback on the design.

“Every R-DOGS member is needed to comment… And ask all you friends and neighbors to add their comments,” the group said in a letter to supporters. “This is probably the only opportunity our dogs will have for an off-leash park within Rosslyn and walking distance for their human companions.”

The park could become permanent after the master plan for Gateway Park is reviewed in 2022.

“If approved, this park will be available for community use until a park master plan is developed for Gateway Park and there is funding to construct the improvements,” the county said. “The temporary dog park will also be reviewed annually to ensure it is operating safely and in accordance with the County’s policies regarding temporary park uses and facilities.”

A recent presentation noted that the dog park is to be built in an area not typically used by annual public events that use Gateway Park, like the Rosslyn Jazz Festival.

“If the temporary dog park is built on a portion of the west end of Gateway Park, the east side will still be usable for annual events,” the county said.

A separate proposal for a new dog park in Pentagon City is also making some progress. In June it was reported that Amazon was pledging $50,000 for the temporary amenities in the northern end of Virginia Highlands Park, near Pentagon Row and Pentagon City mall.

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The Arlington County Board has given its unanimous stamp of approval to plans for a revamped public park in the shadow of Amazon’s HQ2.

The Board approved a master plan and design guidelines for Pentagon City’s Metropolitan Park, which as currently configured is perhaps best known for being a large patch of grass where dogs from neighboring apartment buildings relieve themselves.

Amazon is picking up the $14 million renovation tab for the reimagined Metropolitan Park, designed — also at Amazon’s expense — by James Corner Field Operations, of New York City “High Line” fame.

The new park, expected to be completed in 2023, will feature lush meandering paths, a central green for gatherings and events, tables for outdoor dining, two 2,000 square foot dog parks, an edible garden, and public art, among other amenities.

James Corner Field Operations conducted its community outreach process for the park design virtually, as a result of the pandemic, with live video presentations and online surveys. The park design is a fusion of several presented concepts, with community feedback taken into account during each step of the way.

The online process won plaudits from at least one of the citizen-led county commissions involved.

“Several Commissioners noted that the virtual public engagement was thorough and well designed and allowed for much broader participation than would otherwise be the case for in-person meetings alone,” wrote Phil Klingelhofer, Chair of Arlington’s Urban Forestry Commission. “We would encourage the County to consider utilizing this virtual method of public engagement going forward even after the Covid-19 restrictions on public meetings have ceased as way to foster greater inclusivity and feedback.”

More on the park’s approval from an Arlington County press release, below.

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Dog parks, basketball courts and volleyball courts will reopen Friday, along with gyms and restaurant dining rooms.

Arlington County announced that it was reopening the additional park facilities as Northern Virginia enters Phase 2 of the reopening. The county previously reopened athletic fields, batting cages, tennis courts, tracks and picnic shelters last Friday.

Arlington Public Library, meanwhile, will offer book returns and pickup service at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) starting Monday, June 15.

Under state guidelines, the Phase 2 reopening will allow restaurants to open indoor areas at 50% capacity and indoor gyms to open at 30% capacity. Social gatherings of up to 50 people will now be permitted.

In a press release about the reopening today, Arlington County encouraged residents to continue taking safety precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.

“Arlington will maintain a Safer at Home strategy, with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings,” the county said.

The press release also contained a gentle reminder that parking restrictions were never lifted during the pandemic.

“The public is reminded that parking meters are being enforced,” the county said. “Motorists should be particularly mindful of posted signage in commercial areas as businesses are beginning to reopen.”

More from Arlington County, below.

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All Arlington dog parks, fields and playgrounds are closing in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Amid quickly rising cases and community spread of the virus in the county, Arlington Public Schools and Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation are locking down most outdoor recreational facilities where people congregate. That follows the last week’s closure of indoor community centers.

Trails and community gardens will remain open to individuals, but congregating in groups is banned.

More from Arlington County:

Arlington County is committed to the health and safety of our community and our employees. Effectively immediately, all Arlington County/APS parks, fields, playgrounds, restrooms, tracks, dog parks and courts are closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Signs will be posted at all affected locations. Park visitors are asked to adhere to all closure notices and current social distancing recommendations.

Trails and community gardens are also closed to groups. Please exercise and garden alone. In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is important that everyone take personal responsibility and practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently.

The parks department is currently printing signs announcing the closures, according to DPR spokeswoman Susan Kalish.

A number of readers have reached out to ARLnow to report groups of people seemingly not observing social distancing recommendations at local sports fields and parks.

“Happened to go for fresh air and a walk on the trail due to the quarantine and the courts by the trail are full of people playing soccer and basketball,” one reader said in an email to ARLnow last week.

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