Letter: Congratulations On OLDA Success

Letter: Congratulations On OLDA Success

To the Editor:

Last weekend, a group of users of the Westgrove Park off leash dog area (OLDA) got together and raised enough money from OLDA users to retire the $10,000 obligation agreed to by the responsible group, Westgrove PACK, LLC, as imposed by the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) as a condition of its approval of use of a portion of the park as an OLDA. Prior to last weekend, the majority of the funds had already been raised — I commend the users who organized and raised the remaining money, about $4,000. With the debt now paid, Westgrove PACK can now concentrate on cooperating with FCPA to provide additional amenities to the OLDA such as water supply, informational kiosks, turf management, and others.

Satisfaction of the financial obligation is the culmination of five years of hard work and effort on the part of OLDA users and Westgrove PACK. The effort to create an OLDA where dogs could run freely and safely without fear that their owners would be ticketed began in 2009. The first meeting of OLDA supporters occurred in the Spring of 2010 and a board was soon constituted. In June 2010, a petition signed by moe than 300 supporters was presented to Supervisor Hyland. I first stated my support in November 2010 in a letter to the editor of the Gazette.

In January 2011, the MVCCA's Environment and Recreation Committee first met to discuss whether to support the proposed OLDA. At the MVCCA Council meeting in March 2011, the MVCCA voted in favor of the OLDA. This led to a series of public meetings arranged by FCPA as well as meetings of the county Planning Commission.

In July 2012, the FCPA Board approved the OLDA as an interim use and this decision was ratified the same month by the county Planning Commission. In November 2012, the OLDA with its perimeter fence was officially opened as an interim use. In September 2013, the FCPA approved the Master Plan for Westgrove Park including a permanent OLDA. Westgrove PACK, LLC was incorporated and should soon receive its 501(c)(3) status so that contributors can deduct their contributions on their tax returns.

Subsequently, use of the OLDA continued by users and their dogs and fund raising toward satisfaction of the $10,000 obligation methodically continued.

I note that in an edition of the Gazette in early 2014, Supervisor Hyland was interviewed and identified establishment of the OLDA as one of his most important accomplishments in 2013. This has been a complex and lengthy saga and the best is yet to come for those of us who worked so hard to establish the OLDA as an interim use, obtain its permanent inclusion in the Master Plan of the park, worked hard to retire the financial obligation to FCPA, and now use and enjoy the OLDA. This success story is worth celebrating. I thank Supervisor Hyland, the FCPA, especially our Mount Vernon representative Linwood Gorham, and the FCPA staff for their cooperation toward establishing a long-needed, wonderful community amenity.

H. Jay Spiegel, Mount Vernon