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Another Civil War Site Going to the Dogs? Not in Arlington, Where Fort Ethan Allen is Preserved

The Smithsonian Associates Civil War E-Mail Newsletter, Volume 8, Number 3

Other jurisdictions should take notice on how Arlington County, Virginia skillfully managed competing interests to retain this important site, while keeping the dogs - and dog owners - at bay.

It's been said that "every dog has its day," but not too many dogs have their day at a County Board meeting. That changed when the Arlington County Board approved a newly relocated park for the community and its canine residents. The dog park was relocated from its original site on the grounds of the historic Fort Ethan Allen, where it impeded the historic experience for visitors.

"We're pleased to be able to protect our historic Fort and give Arlington's dogs a place to run and play," said County Board Chair Barbara A. Favola. "We are grateful to the Task Force, residents, and County staff who participated in this extensive and inclusive process."

Community Input and Process
The Board appointed the Fort Ethan Allen Community Canine Area Relocation Task Force in January 2004. The Task Force was comprised of a variety of stakeholders, including civic association representatives, dog park user groups, and County commission representatives. Over the next five months, the Task Force held ten meetings [open to the public], a Public Forum and three field tours and reviewed at least 32 potential sites.

The County Board approved the Task Force's recommended site, which is located in Fort Ethan Allen Park adjacent to the Madison Community Center.

Historic Fort Ethan Allen
Fort Ethan Allen was a bastioned earthwork built by the Union Army in September 1861 to command all the approaches to Chain Bridge south of Pimmit Run. The Fort had a perimeter of 736 yards, with emplacements for 39 guns. The embankments which still remain were the south face, less the west bastion; an interior bombproof shelter for protection against Confederate artillery fire from Hall's Hill; the magazine and guardhouse near the north face; and a part of the east face. Earthwork trenches extended from the fort to connect Fort Ethan Allen with Fort C.F. Smith to the south and Fort Marcy to the north.

The historic Civil War Fort - which is part of Fort Ethan Allen Park -- is a designated Arlington County Historic District and is included as a site in the Virginia Civil War Trails program. The local Historic District status was given to a portion of the park in 1978, to ensure that the remaining earthworks and other archaeological remains would be protected for future generations. In 2004, Fort Ethan Allen was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Arlington's Community Canine Areas
Seven Community Canine Areas [CCA] are located throughout Arlington. Once known as "Dog Exercise Areas," the name was changed to reflect the community-building aspect that these recreation areas provide - these areas provide social opportunities not only for the dogs, but more importantly, also for the owners.

Each official County CCA has a sponsoring group, comprised of local residents, who help manage the CCA. In the Open Space Survey conducted in 2002, CCAs were one of the most frequently visited recreation amenities in Arlington.

The moral of the story: not every historic site can be preserved; not every site should be cast aside in the name of progress. But both can be achieved through collaboration, coordination, and community commitment.