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Wanted: Fun Place for Dogs

Residents seek off-leash park in Centreville.

Centreville has lots of amenities for people. But if you're a dog, wishing you had someplace to run free and frolic with other dogs, you're, well, barking up the wrong tree.

Until now. CentrevilleDogs, a group of more than 150 Centreville residents, hopes to establish an off-leash dog park in Quinn Farm Park, at Braddock and Old Lee roads in Centreville.

"The park would be free, and we're hoping as many people as possible would use it," said Lynn Norusis, CentrevilleDogs spokeswoman. "And there's such a big need. For example, in my area of five townhouses in Sully Station II, there are seven dogs."

The group holds regular meetings, and the next one is Thursday, March 24, from 7-8 p.m., at the Sully Station II Community Center, 5501 Sully Park Drive in Centreville. Those unable to attend, but wanting to get involved, may e-mail CentrevilleDogs@yahoo.com and type "new member." For more information, see www.centrevilledogs.org.

About 18 months ago, Norusis — who has two dogs — was seeking information about dog parks. "I always went to the one in Oakton, and I wanted to find one in Centreville," she explained. "I Googled 'Dog parks in Centreville' and found a link to an e-mail from Centreville residents trying to find a dog park. So I signed up."

Another resident, Kate Sims, became head of CentrevilleDogs in December 2003, and the group had its first meeting. Since then, it's met every six weeks for updates and to plan fund-raising events. The group will have an information booth, April 1-3, at the Pet Expo at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly.

AND DOGS need not reside in Centreville to take advantage of the park. "Any dog can go to the dog park; it doesn't matter where they live," said Norusis. "The dog just has to be licensed — and that would also mean that his shots are up-to-date."

CentrevilleDogs member Suanne Collinsworth of Sequoia Farms found out from the county Animal Shelter that 6,717 dogs are registered in the area including Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fair Oaks, Fair Lakes, Greenbriar, Franklin Farm and Oak Hill. Some 2,231 of them live in Centreville, alone. Furthermore, she said, "Fairfax County estimates that only half of the dogs are actually registered."

That's why Collinsworth would like to see a dog park become a reality here. "Our initial goal is to get the park built," she said. "But the long-term goal is to provide a dog park that will be used by the community."

Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) believes it "makes perfect sense" at that location. "I think it's wonderful and a great use for the Quinn Farm property," he said. "It'll be an interim use 'til the park is master-planned and there's enough money to build what the plan says — but that won't be for many years."

Acknowledging how hard CentrevilleDogs has worked, he said, "They're a good group of people and I'm really looking forward to working with them," said Frey. "And I think it's going to be easy to get the money and volunteers to pull it all together, once it's approved." He said he'd use the park, too, for his German Shepherd, Marley. "Dogs need to run," said Frey. "They need to exercise, stretch and play with other dogs, off a leash."

Besides that, added Norusis, "The dogs would also behave better at home because they've gotten exercise. And if they've gotten to socialize, they won't freak out when they see other dogs."

Members of the group first started looking for potential dog-park locations in August 2004. "We went to about seven sites in the Centreville area," said Norusis. "And we got in touch with [Fairfax County Park Authority Chairman — and Sully District representative] Hal Strickland and walked some sites with him in October."

Once the group decided on Quinn Farm Park, Strickland took an informal survey of area residents, asking them what they'd think about a dog park there, and there were no objections. "There's no residential [area] right up against it," said Norusis. "And we wouldn't be stepping on anybody's toes."

The site is two acres, and the group's trying to figure out how much it wants to use. "We're thinking of having separate areas for big dogs and small dogs," said Norusis. "Safety is the big issue, and it works out better that way. Also, you want to be able to see your dog, the whole time."

THE DOG PARK would be fenced in and would be a grassy area with benches. But first comes fund-raising to build the fence. "Once we can raise $10,000 in money, grants or services, the county [Park Authority] will give us a matching grant," said Norusis. "We have to come up with a design and take it to fencing contractors to bid on it. We're kind of hoping some kind-spirited person will knock down the price a bit for us."

Collinsworth said CentrevilleDogs also seeks public input into the park's design "because we really want to build a park that people will want to use. If we know that specific features are important to people — water, small-dog area, shade, etc. — we'll design the park with [them]. We have a message board online."

They also need funds for benches, trash cans and trash-bag receptacles for people not bringing their own bags to clean up after their dogs. So Norusis plans to ask businesses to sponsor CentrevilleDogs with monetary donations or allow members to put fliers in their offices "so people will know we're here, and we'd list them on our sponsors site."

The group's collected nearly $3,000 so far through dog-wash and dog-hike fund-raisers plus contributions. It also sells CentrevilleDogs T-shirts through its Web site. And it raises money via its association with Canine Caterers — a pet food, toys and treats delivery service, and Woofie's — a pet boutique, dog-walking and pet-sitting business.

Ashburn's Amy Reed, co-owner of Woofie's with her partner Leslie Barron, describes the business as an online boutique of "fun, upscale, pet items." It's at www.woofies.net and, if people order things there and mention CentrevilleDogs, it will receive a percentage of the product sales.

"We work with different rescue and nonprofit groups, and CentrevilleDogs is one of the rescue groups," said Reed. "Everyone loves to shop for their pets, and this would be a way for CentrevilleDogs to have an ongoing revenue stream and raise money. I'm really impressed with them. They're very committed to getting the dog park, and I'm excited to work with them."

The group also hopes for a donation from South Riding, which is within a mile of Quinn Farm Park. And Rick Stone, assistant general manager of South Riding's homeowners association, says it's a possibility.

"They came to a grounds-committee meeting in January and made a presentation," he said. "And we'd previously made efforts to get a dog park located in Loudoun County [to no avail]. Then in February, our board gave its support to CentrevilleDogs' efforts because of the park's location and because we believe the region as a whole is in need of a facility like this."

Now, said Stone, "We're posting articles [about the group] on our Web site and in our newsletter, and they'll have a booth at our spring yard sale/home and garden expo [on May 14]. There have even been discussions of financially supporting them, as well."

Joyce Mabry of London Towne and Wendy Shugol of Newgate are both looking forward to the dog park. Mabry has a champion Borzoi (formerly called a Russian wolfhound) named Muttley and, she explained, "Between shows, I just want him to be a dog. It'll give him a chance to socialize. Now, I take him out to a farm to walk in a pasture, or in the backyard."

SHUGOL, WHO has cerebral palsy, has a German Shepherd service dog named Monroe. "He pulls my wheelchair, opens and shuts doors, turns light switches on and off, and picks up things I've dropped," she said. "He gives transactions to tellers at the bank and post office and is in the Fairfax County Band with me. I play French horn, and he sings during the concerts."

So a dog park, said Shugol, would "give him something to do, off duty, because he's a real dog and it's important that he get a chance to socialize and be well-rounded."

"We really hope to get the dog park by the end of 2005," said Norusis. "The only thing holding us back is the money." Donations may be made via the group's Web site or by sending checks payable to the group at CentrevilleDogs, P.O. Box 230542, Centreville, VA 20120.