News

Area Canines Enjoy Free Parks While Md. Pooches Pay to Play

dogmainThere have been no discussions about charging dog owners at any of the seven Fairfax County off-leash dog parks a user fee, Park Authority Public Information Officer Judy Pedersen said Monday. But no promises can be made for future prospects.

 

dogmain

THE DOG DAYS of summer were no match for pups out and about at the Mason District Dog Park in Annandale. Browse all photos online at www.fcnp.com. (Photo: Vicki Coe, News-Press)

 

There have been no discussions about charging dog owners at any of the seven Fairfax County off-leash dog parks a user fee, Park Authority Public Information Officer Judy Pedersen said Monday. But no promises can be made for future prospects.

“There’s been no talk of such plans to date. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen down the line when everything is on table, but we have no intention to charge,” Pedersen added.

Effective last Sunday, $40 dog park permits will be required annually for the use of all five Montgomery County canine recreation sites in nearbysidebox Maryland. That’s on top of the county’s $12 to $25 annual mandatory licensing fees for pets. The recent news left some Falls Church-area pooch parents wondering if the same charges would take effect locally.

Though no annual fee is required to use Fairfax County’s public dog parks, all canines four months of age or older must be licensed. An ordinance change adopted by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2008 mandated a license cost of $10 for all dogs. License tags must then be visibly worn on a dog’s collar, but use of area parks remains free of charge.

Dan Sutherland, grounds management branch manager of the Fairfax County Park Operations, cited the Montgomery’s Department of Parks’ daily operation and maintenance costs as a probable cause of the new fee.

“An important aspect is the day-to-day cleaning of parks from trash to pet waste. But that being primary function of our local dog groups, it saves a lot of the time, energy and spending perhaps being endured by Montgomery County,” he said.

Every Fairfax County dog park was started by a public/private partnership between the county and local dog opportunity groups of no more than 10 people each – mostly dog owners themselves – who have since voluntarily provided trash bags, helped with clean-up efforts and reported maintenance needs of their respective parks.

Higher labor costs Montgomery County faces may also be to blame. Park police will be physically present to monitor permit compliance at the Maryland-based dog parks, and fines may be levied for anyone using the facilities without a permit or a visible permit tag, according to the county’s website.

Pedersen called Fairfax County’s dog partnership groups a “benefit to the community,” lauding the county’s relationship with the dog-friendly organizations.

The Mason District Dog Opportunity Group (DOG), founded in April 2000 by Chris Robichaux, sponsors the park located at the intersection of Alpine Drive and Pinecrest Parkway in Annandale. He recruited people and donations from more than 250 households in Mason District. Together they raised more than $20,000 to build and operate the park, which has the capacity to hold 62 dogs at a time, in June 2002.

“Our experience for the past eight years sponsoring the facility is that it provides a much-needed and appreciated outlet for dog owners,” said Robichaux, adding he hopes jurisdictions solve their financial challenges in a way that serves everyone who uses park systems.

Hinting that there may more local dog parks to come, Pedersen said, “As Fairfax County continues to urbanize, there will be a growing number of dog owners with limited space for their pets to exercise in.”

 

{gallery}023/dogpark{/gallery}

(Photos: Vicki Coe, News-Press)