Dear Arlington County Board:
Once again the citizens of Arlington are in conflict with the staff of Arlington County government. What ever happened to the Arlington Way that County Staff is so regularly out of touch with the will of the population? The Lee Hwy fire station. The Gondola. The Columbia Pike Streetcar. And now, for no coherent reason, the staff wants to cut the Shirlington Dog park.
The Shirlington Dog Park is the largest dog park in the county and the most well used. It is beloved by the community.
The Shirlington Dog Park builds community. It is an opportunity for people of common interest together and laugh and share stories and build a strong sense of soul and spirit to Arlington.
The Shirlington Dog Park is one of the safest dog parks in the county. Other dog parks are situated directly next to children's playing fields (like East Falls Church) resulting in REGULAR conflicts between children attempting to enter the park and dogs.
The Shirlington Dog Park is the cheapest park to operate on a per visitor basis. Compare the Shirlington Dog Park to the $1 million dog park in Clarendon or other dog parks that have low visitor rates.
The Shirlington Dog Park does not create a conflict with local residential citizens - like the fight that took place related to the Madison dog park. Shirlington is in an industrial area and is essentially waste land - the back of warehouses and auto shops.
The Shirlington Dog Park benefits the businesses of Shirlington.
· The Shirlington Dog Park supports patronage of the many dog businesses along Four Mile Run.
· The Shirlington Dog Park helps promote the Arlington Welfare League.
· The Shirlington Dog Park (with its excellently placed pedestrian bridge) supports businesses of Shirlington that have become known as one of the most dog friendly retail centers in the area. People love to come to New District Brewery or to dinner in the Shirlington retail area with their dogs.
The argument that cutting the park in half will have a positive environmental impact is fallacious; in fact, cutting the park in half will HARM the environment. Here is why:
The Arlington dog population unchanged by cutting the size of the park. The dogs that patronize the park will still be in Arlington if the park is cut in half. In fact that dog population is constantly growing. So even though the park is cut in half, the dog population continues to grow. We need to think about how to EXPAND dog park capacity, not reduce it.
Those dogs must go somewhere. If the capacity of the dog park is reduced, the dogs will be walked where they can be. They will be walked in Barcroft next to the youth playing fields. They will be played with off leash in Jeannie Dean Park (I am not endorsing this behavior - but I observe it regularly and I posit it as a fact - owners who want to play with their dogs off leash will go somewhere). They will walk along Four Mile Run.
Thus reducing the size of the dog park does not reduce the size of the environmental impact - it simply shifts it to other areas in Four Mile Run.
This will have a negative environmental impact. Concentrating the dogs in one wonderful park creates the opportunity for environmental mitigation. In the dog park, owners clean up after their dogs - helped by peer pressure of other dog owners who love the park and point out the poop. Staff also regularly cleans the park. Outside the park and outside the view of peer pressure, dog owners all too often don't bother to clean up after their dogs (we know this to be unfortunately true). Concentrating the dogs in the dog park also gives the opportunity for landscaping that can help mitigate impact (much like has been done in East Falls Church and Clarendon).
This is the environmental situation. Arlington has dogs. Cutting the park in half will not reduce the number of those dogs. Those dogs will be exercised and poop somewhere. In the park, that environmental impact can be mitigated. Outside the park, that environmental impact will be spread out in Four Mile Run, impacting the stream and youth sports fields.
The solution - as it almost always is with environmental concerns - is to concentrate the impact where the impact can be mitigated. That is by operating a wonderful dog park.
Shirlington Dog Park is a treasure of Arlington. It promotes community. It promotes business. It promotes outdoor living and exercise. It mitigates environmental impact both on the stream and the local youth parks. It is one of the safest dog parks.
Now…. Ask yourself….. how did we even get to the point where we are having a discussion about cutting in half a park that is so loved and supported by the citizens of Arlington?? Let's return to the Arlington Way where the views of Arlingtonians matter.