Saturday, September 05, 2009

Should Arlandria's New Open Space Be a Dog Park?

Please read below, then click for a quick survey to let us know what you think.

View Reed Avenue Dog Park? in a larger map

Despite the current fiscal climate, the City of Alexandria recently added to our neighborhood stock of open space. Using money left over in Alexandria's open space fund, the City recently shelled out some cash to purchase the property at 3550 Commonwealth Avenue at the intersection with Reed Avenue (across from Cora Kelly Rec Center). Residents will know this property as the place where an electrical substation sat for many years. Apparently, it was a dormant substation, though no one in the community knew that as far as we can tell.

The deal the City struck seems like a good one. As part of the purchase agreement, Dominion Power has dismantled the substation (see pictures, below) and will soon turf over the spot where it once stood. This is very good news. Any time you turn a dormant substation into practically anything else, we doubt you'll have many naysayers.

The question now is: what do we do with this land?

There are 3 existing playgrounds within a block and a half of the property and recreational fields are just down the street in Four Mile Run Park. At only 1/2 acre, the new park probably isn't big enough for playing fields or any major activity. The main options seem to be: an empty field, a field with some landscaping and sitting areas, or... how about a fenced-in dog park?

Top left: Water Source for site, Top Right: Looking south through existing gates, Bottom: Looking North at back of site at existing screening

Alexandria has only four fenced dog parks. The next closest one to 3550 Commonwealth (or should we call it Reed Avenue Park?) is 1.5 miles away at Simpson Park, on Monroe Avenue near Route 1 in Del Ray. There are, however, several "off-leash" exercise areas, but these areas don't draw in nearly as many users as the fenced-in areas as not everyone feels comfortable letting their dog run free without the safety net of a fence.

One such "off-leash" dog exercise area is in Four Mile Run Park at the cul-de-sac end of Edison Street. The delineated area, as in other such places, consists of simply a few low-standing posts that mark the area where dogs can run. The Edison Street dog run lies near the Four Mile Run wetland preserve and adjacent to the jogging/cycling path (sometimes known at the Anderson Bikeway). As far as we can tell, it is the only sanctioned off-leash dog run in our rather densely-built section of Alexandria.

With funds being short, we understand that there are no current plans for 3550 Commonwealth beyond the turfing being done as part of the purchase agreement. The City doesn't have another $260,000 to create another "pocket park" like what was approved last year for 1 & 7 East Del Ray Avenue for the land that was acquired there last year. 3550 will likely stay a vacant lot for a long time short of being made useful with some quite smaller investment.

How much investment? The 2000 City of Alexandria Master Plan for Dog Exercise Areas and Fenced Dog Parks gives some ideas. That plan recommends a list of amenities necessary for dog parks: fencing, trash cans, turf (the most expensive investment), water, etc. Luckily, 3550 has some of these and we surmise that the main expense would be the installation of some kind of fence.

The City's dog park master plan calls for siting new dog runs such that there is "appropriate set back from bodies of water." Why is that? Well, the Four Mile Run pollution control implementation plan says that dog waste accounts for 42% of controllable sources of bacteria that pollute the stream. It concludes, "Dog parks are a benefit to the community for a variety of reasons, and can be considered a water quality Best Management Practice (BMP) themselves." In short, a new dog park in this location would keep dog waste much further from Four Mile Run than people using parks closer to the stream to walk their dogs.

We think 3550, therefore, looks like a good candidate, but we're going to try something new here on The Arlandrian. We're going to ask you to take a short questionnaire to get an idea of whether or not we're touting a solution in search of a problem or if people would really like a dog park. We'll collect responses for a week or so, then put the data out there for all to see. Alexandria and Arlington residents only, please (unless you would make the drive for a nice Dog Park in the North End of Alexandria)! Please pass this along to friends, too, we'd like to see what folks think.

Please let us know either way. It only takes 2-3 minutes:


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