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Dog Park May Be Closed

It has been open eight months, but the Reston Dog Park may be eliminated by the end of its first year. The dog park, located within Baron Cameron Park, comes in front of the Fairfax County Park Authority for review in September. And Brian Davidson, president of the Reston Dog Park Coalition, said there is a significant chance the dog park may be eliminated.

"I personally think we have a 50 percent chance of losing it," Davidson said. "If we aren’t absolutely vigilant when it comes up for review in September, we could lose it."

The park's coming under attack from some nearby residents who are concerned with noise, safety, and parking issues. Those residents have been meeting with officials from the Fairfax County Park Authority and one man has gone so far as to videotape dogs at the park, trying to capture violations of the 19 rules that dictate park usage. Davidson would not name any of the individuals opposing the park, but he said most of them live in the Longwood Grove neighborhood, which faces the park from the other side of Wiehle Avenue.

But Davidson said that resident concerns over the park are unfounded. He said there is a core group of 30 to 40 volunteers who regularly patrol the park to make sure rules are followed. Also, as more park users have become familiar with park rules, there have been fewer infractions, according to Davidson.

"AS LONG AS the park is busy, we’re pretty much always going to have Reston Dog Park Coalition people here," Davidson said, while visiting the park on a recent Sunday.

Davidson admitted that there have been some problems at the park. He said there are, occasionally, aggressive confrontations between dogs. And there are, occasionally, excessively loud dogs at the park. But dog owners have been asked to leave because of such incidents.

"There is a group that comes to the park very early," said Randall Speer, a frequent park user. "And if dogs are barking at that time, [the nearby residents] have a point. But we are all regulars who are here early. We are aware of the noise we make, and we try to keep it as quiet as we can."

Davidson said there is little barking in the park itself, but he suspects the park is blamed for dog barking from nearby houses, where dogs are penned up outdoors. He said when dogs are together in a large group, they don’t seem to bark as much as when they are individually isolated.

ONE COMPLAINT Davidson agrees with is that the dog park surface is excessively dusty. Although the park started out covered with a variety of materials, including grass and mulch, most of the park surface has been worn down to bare dirt. The one surface that has stayed intact is the crushed blue stone. The Reston Dog Park Coalition has asked the county to resurface the entire park with blue stone. But because the future of the park is not entirely certain, the county has not allocated money for the surfacing improvement.

As the dog park review process nears, Davidson is trying to organize park users, and form a contingent of Reston residents willing to fight for the park. M.D. Kerns said the dog park is one of the primary reasons he moved to Reston.

"My lease expires in July," Kerns said. "It would be, for me, central to my choice to be living in Reston. I would seriously consider going to another community if they take the dog park."

When the park opened, Speer took pictures and sent them to his mother in New Jersey, where he grew up.

"We don’t have anything like this in Tony Soprano and Bruce Springsteen-land," Speer said.