How will Four Mile Run Valley planning affect the Shirlington dog park? Will it stay in its current location? The SCA certainly hopes so. We are advocating for that vigorously on the 4MRV Working Group, but we are all waiting to find out. Here’s the latest, including the full text of Feb. 10 letter from the County Board.

To learn more and make your voice heard, please come to the SCA Membership Meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Shirlington Public Library. We have invited Keith Fred, the longtime head of volunteers to the dog park. The meeting starts at 7 pm. Keith is a member of the 4MRV Working Group, where he has been a knowledgeable and thoughtful voice.

At the meeting, we will consider a resolution to keep the dog park in its current location. We will also appoint two Shirlington representatives to the board of the dog park support group to help strengthen it. We are encouraging other civic associations to do the same.

Update on Recent Events

We will post more on this important topic after our meeting. Suffice it to say that the SCA understands the role the dog park plays in our local community, economy, recreation, and well, how we live in Shirlington.

In the week of February 6, 2017, there was a 4MRV meeting and during that week, over 150 residents from all over Arlington wrote the County Board members protesting draft plans presented to the 4MRV Working Group. Several of these plans would move the dog park inside Jennie Dean Park. Here is what Keith said on Shirlington Dogs list serve about the 4MRV meeting, followed by the Feb. 10 letter from County Board.

Thank you to everyone who attended the Four Mile Run Valley Initiative Working Group meeting Tuesday night Feb. 7th and especially to those who stayed and spoke during the public comment time at the end of the meeting. You all added a very important and wonderful personal aspect on the importance of the Shirlington dog park. For those who could not attend I will give a brief overview.  
County staff and consultants gave a presentation as part of the Park Master Plan, which includes Jennie Dean Park, Shirlington Park as well as the dog park, showing four alternatives for the space. The presentation is posted on the Four Mile Valley web site, (www.4MRV.com) under “Documents.” Three of the four alternatives show the dog park moved to another location in the planning area and significantly decreased in size. The fourth has it mainly in its current location but somewhat decreased in size. The first three alternatives would also change the character of the dog park by not having its long length which allows people to walk along with their dogs as they run and play and spreads people and dogs out within the park. The first three if not all the alternatives would transform the dog park into something similar to the James Hunter dog park in Clarendon with artificial surfaces that have proven to be problematic especially in the heat of the summer. 
As a member of the Working Group I spoke as long as allowed in defense of the dog park in its current location and configuration and rebutted the objections to the dog park relating to the environment, erosion and storm water runoff. I mentioned the importance of the small dog area which most of the other county dog parks do not have. I emphasized how popular the dog park is by just the shear number of visitors, over 200,000 people annually, and also how vital it is economically to the local community. 
Other Working Group members made statements in support of my arguments. The public comments included how the Shirlington dog park is truly ADA accessible, that many people have moved to the immediate area specifically because of the dog park and people who live closer to other dog parks come to Shirlington. The staff and consultants are scheduled to present narrowed down alternatives at the March 7th Working Group meeting. Stay tuned.  
Thank you again. 
Keith Fred 
Shirlington Dogs II 

The response to letter writers that same week was as follows:

From: Arlington County Board (imailagent) [mailto:CountyBoard@arlingtonva.us]
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2017 3:37 PM
To:
Subject: From County Board – Shirlington Dog Park (Intranet Quorum IMA00368589)

Dear Mr. —–,

On behalf of the County Board, thank you for sharing your support for the Shirlington dog park. Please know that the Shirlington dog park is not going away. This park is one of eight Arlington County dog parks that residents and their pets enjoy.  It is easily one of the more popular dog parks, and there are no plans to eliminate it. In fact, a key goal is to improve this feature for all concerned.

As you may know, the County initiated a long a long-range, comprehensive planning effort of the Four Mile Run Valley in 2016.  This area contains an eclectic mix of older industrial buildings, Jennie Dean Park, a variety of other uses ranging from the arts to athletics, and is one of the few non-residential areas of the County without a plan to guide its future development.

The Four Mile Run Working Group is comprised of a broad array of citizen stakeholders.  At a recent meeting of the Working Group, four initial master plan options of the study area were shared by the staff and consultants. The existing dog park was retained in two options, and it was moved and reduced in size in two others.

The Shirlington dog park is located in a Resource Protection Area.  Two of the options that would move the dog park away from the stream would allow the County to more closely adhere to the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, which protects local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

We appreciate that many residents feel very strongly about not making any changes to the current dog park. The Working Group has yet to make any definitive recommendations, and the County Board will not make any final decisions until next year, in 2018.  You may share your ideas about a vision for the Four Mile Run Valley and how to protect and enhance the dog park at the upcoming Four Mile Run Working Group meeting, on Tuesday, March 7, from 7-10 pm, in the Park and Natural Resources Operations Building’s second floor Conference Center, 2700 S. Taylor Street.

There will also be more opportunities to engage in the public process for this project through additional public monthly meetings.  We encourage you to attend to hear firsthand possible options for the dog park, other land use issues, and how they will potentially impact residents and visitors alike. You may also subscribe to email updates on the Four Mile Run Valley Initiative webpage.

Your participation in the public engagement process is critical. As a community, we do our best work when everyone participates in a collaborative fashion.  Thank you again for sharing your perspective with us.

Sincerely,

Jay Fisette, Chair, Arlington County Board

John Vihstadt, Member, Arlington County Board and Liaison to the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group