Last spring, the Fairfax City Council approved $50,000 for the design and construction of a dog park in its FY ’18 budget. And it’s now given the go-ahead for the design work to proceed.
The space will be a place for dogs to exercise and play off-leash – under supervision by their owners – in a controlled environment. It’s slated to go on part of the site of the former Westmore School at 11000 Berry St. in Fairfax. It will have access to on-site water and will be surrounded by a 5-foot-high fence.
At a recent, City Council work session, Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Salgado said, “We’d like consensus to move forward so we can get the design underway. We’d like to get the dog park built before next summer.”
She said it would be about 10,000 square feet and could go on two, possible locations – where the school building was or on an asphalt parking lot to the east of that spot. “The old, school footprint is flat, has access to parking and would need shade structures,” said Salgado. “The parking lot is smaller and deteriorating, but has a nice shade tree.”
THE DESIGN will examine both locations to determine which one would be best suited for the dog park, which will operate from dawn to dusk. And, said Councilwoman Janice Miller, “We need the asphalt not just repaired, but really brought up to standards.”
“Once we have a design and do community outreach, we can see which location would be best for it and for the community it’ll serve,” said Salgado. “A grass surface doesn’t last long, and turf is too expensive, so we’re looking at stone dust. It’s inexpensive and maintenance-free, and dogs like to dig in it.”
And with option two – the parking lot – Salgado said they’d be putting a pervious surface on what was previously an impervious surface, so that’s better for the environment and stormwater runoff. She also noted that people are expected to both drive and walk to the dog park.
Regarding the potential for naming rights, she said, “There are all sorts of possibilities. Once we get further down the line, we’d like to do some fundraising. And there’ll be opportunities to name a bench, a water fountain, etc.”
“We have a number of pet stores in the City,” said Councilwoman Ellie Schmidt. “So there’s a lot of potential for financing there.”
Salgado further explained that 10,000-square-foot dog parks generally have a 30-40 dog maximum, and “We’ll have signage saying it. And this will be a fenced dog park. [City] staff would pick up trash, check for safety issues and see how things are running.”
Councilman Michael DeMarco asked if Westmore is considered public, open space, and Brooke Hardin, the City’s director of Community Development and Planning, responded. “It’s identified as public, open space in the City’s Comprehensive Plan,” said Hardin. “But a dog park there would require a special-use permit, and it would cover the entirety of the property.”
THE COMPLETED DESIGN will be reviewed by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB), the Board of Architectural Review and City Council. The Council members will also discuss the proposed design during a future, public work session. City residents will also get to have their say during a public hearing on the project.
The design and review process can take as long as nine months. But public outreach will be ongoing, and people are welcome to review and comment on the dog park plans.
Pleased with what he’d heard, Fairfax Mayor David Meyer told Salgado, “You have unanimity to give the go-ahead to staff to do the design and the two, location assessments.”