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August 4, 2017

Popular pooch playground operated by volunteers

What’s really funny is you come in here and you know the dog’s names before you know the people’s names.
— Frank Oley of New Baltimore
Vint Hill Dog Park
• Managers: Ken and Ellen Ellis and Kristin Morgan.

• What: Dog park for small and large canines run by nonprofit Piedmont Dogs LLC. Privately owned park open to the public.

• Where: Aiken Drive and Kennedy Road, Warrenton.

• Size: 1.25 fenced acres, owned by Vint Hill Village LLC.

• Hours: Dawn to dusk.

• Website:

• Facebook: Click here.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
More than a dozen dogs of all sizes bound around the fenced park, tug at toys, lap up water and meet new playmates.

Dotted with shade trees and toys, the 1.25-acre Vint Hill Dog Park acts as a year-round playground for canine companions.

Cory Love brings his German shepherd/husky mix, Oshie, to the park about once a week from Manassas.

“I’ve been to about five other dog parks in the area, and this is probably the nicest,” Mr. Love said.

His friend Ashley Whelan from Alexandria meets him at the park with her Wheaton terrier, Berkley, two or three times a month.

“It’s huge, and there’s good things for the dogs here,” Ms. Whelan said. “Usually there are a lot of dogs here to play with.”

Operated by the nonprofit Piedmont Dogs LLC, the park relies on citizen donations and business advertising to keep it up and running.

More than 1,600 people use the park on a regular basis, according to volunteers who maintain it.

Fauquier County’s only dog park opened in 2011 on land that real estate development/management company Vint Hill Village LLC owns.

When the park faced financial issues, Ken and Ellen Ellis and Kristin Morgan stepped up to take over its management about three years ago.

To cut costs and increase revenue, they eliminated a dog-waste removal service, bought cheaper waste bags, started informing the public about the group’s nonprofit status and asked for volunteers.

Both retired, Mr. and Mrs. Ellis routinely monitor the park in the evening and refill water barrels. Other volunteers also help with park upkeep.

“The actual day-to-day maintenance is very little — pick up some poop, once a week do a trash run,” Mr. Ellis said. “We’re very fortunate that we have a group of about 12 or so volunteers who are really into the park.”

It costs $3,000 a year — a third of that for insurance — to run the dog park, she estimated. The group also pays about $35 a month for dumpster use and access to water.

Park regular Tim Hoffman, who lives within walking distance, has brought his dog Kyle almost every evening for the last four years.

“It’s convenient,” Mr. Hoffman said. “It’s a nice place to socialize. Ken and Ellen have made all sorts of improvements to make it better. They made it more user-friendly.”

Boy Scouts have completed several park projects, including benches and a dog obstacle course.

Mr. and Mrs. Ellis each year try to add a new feature. This month volunteers installed a second entrance/exit.

About two years, ago they created a separate area for small dogs, and last year they built a patio area with seating for visitors.

The group also hosts three annual events — photos with Santa, a Halloween party and a summer barbecue.

“I think it’s another central point for the community,” Mr. Ellis said. “It’s one of those areas in the community where people can get together under no pressure and socialize. It’s a place to meet people. People like to hang out with people who do the same thing.”

Sarah Elizabeth drives about 35 minutes from Remington to use the park.

“All the people are really friendly. There’s hardly any (dog) fighting,” Ms. Elizabeth said. “You can tell the volunteers take care of it.”

She usually brings her Boston terrier, Bowser, three times a week for about an hour.

“We do have a yard, but not a fence,” Ms. Elizabeth said. “Here he has more space to run around. There are lots of other dogs to play with and things to pee on.”

New Baltimore resident Frank Oley brings 2-year-old Buddy to the park about four times a week.

“He comes here, runs around for an hour, gets tired out and then you take him home and he sleeps all afternoon,” Mr. Oley said.

“What’s really funny is you come in here and you know the dog’s names before you know the people’s names,” he added. “You recognize people by their dogs.”

Warrenton will soon begin construction of the county’s second dog park near South Fifth Street in Old Town.

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