The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) initiated an in-depth study of dog parks in Fairfax County in 2019. The purpose of the study was to assess needs and priorities for dog parks throughout the county, and to adopt strategies for long-term planning, development, and management of dog parks. The study was conducted by a team consisting of subject matter experts across FCPA. The team identified the following focus areas to be addressed by the study;
Why did the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) do a Dog Park Study?
FCPA has received an abundance of questions and commentary over the past years related to the operation and potential expansion of dog parks within the county. The intent of the study was to address these questions and challenges through comprehensive analysis, research, and public outreach to better inform the planning, design, and operation of existing and future dog parks.
What information is the report?
The dog park study team set out to answer 20 questions across a variety of topic areas related to FCPA dog parks, such as dog park planning, design, and rules and enforcement. Both answers to the questions and recommendations for FCPA consideration are included in this report.
Answers to these questions were reached through conducting benchmarking, as well as best practice and industry research. Research was conducted by a cross-agency dog park study team comprised of FCPA staff representing over five different FCPA divisions. Input from the public, in combination with research findings, form the basis of the responses and recommendations in the report.
Are specific locations recommended for future dog parks?
No. The dog park study employed a variety of planning analyses which pointed to several places in the county where there may be gaps in the provision of county dog parks, and where demand for dog parks may be higher. The study also identifies FCPA parks where dog parks have been planned, but not yet built. Combining this information, the study provides several recommendations to aid in closing these gaps, and where these efforts could be prioritized. The study also provides updated planning and siting criteria to guide future dog park planning efforts.
While the study provides some general suggestions for where future dog parks could go, it is important to emphasize that the addition of a dog park to any FCPA park requires the Park Authority’s master planning process. This may entail a master plan update, revision, or creation of a new master plan for that park. Community input and engagement is critical to this process, as is the identification of funding sources. More information about the master planning process and how it is initiated is detailed in the dog park study.
Are any changes recommended for existing dog parks?
Yes. The study does recommend improvements for each existing FCPA dog park. The suggested improvements were identified through survey results, public comments, and in-house assessments of the site conditions. These improvements will require additional funding to be identified to be implemented.
What is the process for requesting a dog park close to where I live and how is a decision made?
The study provides several ways new dog parks can become established, including through a community process to propose locations within FCPA parks. To ensure that new dog parks consider environmental, community, regulatory and operational factors, FCPA has developed a review process for new dog park proposals. A step-by-step guide for establishment, planning criteria, and a site feasibility checklist are included in the report. These tools are intended to be a resource for the public and also serve as a standardized and consistent process for staff to reference. All new dog park requests will undergo a preliminary planning review to determine the feasibility of the requested location. Should the proposed location be found suitable, a master planning process with community participation and identification of funding would be required prior to any development.
What does the dog park study report recommend?
The report contains information and recommendations as it relates to the planning, design, operations and maintenance, volunteering, funding sources and donation opportunities, and rules and enforcement of FCPA dog parks. The report also contains updated siting criteria, design guidance, and volunteering tools. These recommendations are the result of the analyses conducted by the staff team and are inclusive of the feedback we heard from the community. Please review the draft report for recommendations related to each of the following topics.
Does this report recommend changing any of the current rules for dog parks in the county?
No. The report does not recommend any changes to FCPA’s existing dog park rules or operating hours. Staff research combined with public input helped FCPA identify the need to improve dog park rule enforcement, but that changes to the rules, which are consistent with those of other nearby counties, were not required. Recommendations related to improving rule enforcement and dog park etiquette, such as improved signage, dog handling brochures, and improving the visibility of FCPA’s volunteer programs, are provided in the report.
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