- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Alexandria residents who now walk their dogs in a grassy area near the federal courthouse are upset that the trials of two suspected terrorists will force them to take their pets elsewhere.

As media outlets descend upon the U.S. District Court to cover the trials of accused terrorists John Walker Lindh and Zacarias Moussaoui, Alexandria will construct a media-staging area in the 1.2-acre lot in front of the courthouse, a grassy patch many nearby residents go to walk their dogs.

"It's something that we can't change at this time," said 59-year-old Alexandria resident Linda Sernoff, who was walking her dog in the lot yesterday. "Hopefully, all future trials will be at a different venue."

Construction of the media center, which will include a platform for reporters, photographers, camera crews and trailers for reporters to file stories in, will probably begin in July, city spokeswoman Barbara Gordon said.

The staging area should be complete before jury selection begins for the Lindh trial on Aug. 26, she said, adding that some grassy spot will be available after construction is complete. Already, nearly two dozen media trucks are parked near the lot.

Although many local residents said they are unhappy with the city's decision to occupy the land, Mrs. Gordon said the area doesn't belong to the residents anyway.

"It's not a dog park. It's a vacant piece of land some residents choose to walk their dogs on," she said. "How can you lose it if you didn't have it to begin with?"

A hotel may be built on the privately owned lot in the future, Mrs. Gordon said.

The land has become a favorite of dog owners who live in the upscale condominiums nearby.

Residents of the Carlyle Towers, which is adjacent to the lot, said management promised to build a dog park near the building months ago, but no definite plans have been made.

Scott Rosenbloom, general manager of Carlyle Towers, declined to comment on the proposed park.

Some residents also have voiced concerns about security and access around their homes in the coming months. At a City Council meeting on Saturday, some locals spoke out against the plan for the media staging area, which was approved in a 6-1 vote.

"There's a lot of anxiety and apprehension about it," Mrs. Sernoff said. "There's a lot of concern."

Mrs. Gordon said the city is trying its best to handle the security, traffic and parking issues.

"That's what we're trying to strike a balance between," she said. "That land is the only vacant land that's close enough."

Despite the inconveniences, dog owners said they have no choice but to accept the plans for the media center.

"I think everyone will miss the park, but it has to be done," said Rosanne Bray, a nearby resident. "We are at war and everyone needs to make some sacrifices."

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