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Dog park group raising money for legal defense

By Karen Goff

Friday - 8/22/2014, 9:30am  ET

Sign at dog 
park at Baron CameronReston Dogs Inc., the volunteer group that helps maintain the county-run off-leash dog area at Baron Cameron Park, is in the midst of a fundraising effort to help pay for legal expenses related to saving their dog park.

In March, a group of homeowners in the Longwood Grove subdivision filed suit against the Fairfax County Park Authority and Reston Dogs. The injunction calls for the park to be shut down because of excessive noise.

The dog park, which is open during daylight hours, is the only off-leash dog run in Reston. The neighbors that filed the suit in Fairfax County Circuit Court call it a “private nuisance.”

“The dog park noise, mainly from unruly dogs barking and fighting, has grown to intolerable levels over the last two years and is likely to become even more severe in the spring and summer months,” reads the court document.

Reston Dogs Inc. administrators are trying to raise $3,500 to pay for attorney’s fees. The group has retained Reston lawyer Michael Horwatt.

As of Friday morning, the group’s Go Fund Me page has $1,880 in donations.

“If we fail to defend ourselves the case will be won by the plaintiff by default and the dog park will be closed and removed from BC Park,” administrators said in an email to dog park regulars. “Since we certainly do not want this to occur, we have no choice but to defend ourselves. We, the litigation committee for Reston Dogs, have retained an experienced lawyer to represent us, one who actually attends the dog park. …”

“Since the case is about to enter a more intense period of discussion during the next month as we try to find a mutually agreeable solution, this will probably be the most critical month of the lawsuit. What this means is we are in desperate need of an injection of funds totaling about $3,500 during the next month to retain our attorney.”

The suit alleges that the noise from the park is often incessant and “disrupts the Longwood Grove plaintiffs’ reasonable use and enjoyment of their properties.” There are 100 homes in the Longwood Grove subdivision, but the complaint was brought by seven individuals representing five households.

In the complaint, it states that the Longwood Grove homes are 300-400 feet from the dog park. However, Wiehle Avenue, a busy, four-lane main road, along with a buffer of trees and a noise-reducing fence, separate the homes from the park.

Baron Cameron Park recently went through a master plan revision. There had been a proposal as part of the master plan process to move the off-leash area farther into the interior of the park. However, the draft, which was approved by the park authority board in June, keeps the dog park in its current location at the edge along Wiehle Avenue.

Reston Dogs said in its email to users “we are currently evaluating possible alternative solutions that might avoid having the case go to trial. Some of those possible options are methods to reduce the noise at the current location or a possible move of the dog park to a different location within Baron Cameron Park.”

Park Authority Chairman Bill Bouie said the county has asked for the case to be dismissed and that the county attorney is handling the park authority’s defense.

“The county attorney’s office is handling the situation and it is going through the normal process of the judicial system,” said Bouie . “In the meantime, the park authority will continue to try and mitigate any issues that arise and are documented at the dog park, but it is an essential part of the community’s assets and used by a lot of people.”