Naturalists Take On Summer

Riverbend staff members Ethan Kuhnhenn, Julie Gurnee, and Michelle Brannon attended the American Camp Association's Tri-State Conference in Atlantic City, NJ.

Riverbend Park staff members Ethan Kuhnhenn, Julie Gurnee, and Michelle Brannon attended the American Camp Association’s Tri-State Conference in Atlantic City, NJ.

I was lucky enough to attend the American Camp Association’s (ACA) Tri-State Conference held in the Atlantic City Convention Center a few weeks past. Although most visitors may have been thinking about a winning hand or their latest bet, those in attendance at this conference were focused on campfire sing-alongs, sunscreen, and flip-flops. That’s right, we were thinking about summer. Summer camp, that is.  This conference was completely focused on nothing but summer camps, and the city was stuffed full of people ranging from counselors to directors, and everything in between. Everyone there had one goal: make this summer great.

Fairfax County Park Authority is no stranger to making summer great. In fact, it has a strong reputation for being one of the best providers of day camps in the D.C. area. This is no secret. The real surprise is how many different opportunities for summer activities there are between here and Maine for everything from day camp to week long cabin camping to extreme excursions in the woods. Knowing there are so many different opportunities and being a part of such a great organization really hits you as you meet people from all over the East Coast.

I attended several really great sessions, and I got to spend half my time at the conference playing games. Remember, this is conference on summer camp! I picked up not only new techniques for dealing with children, but I also learned new ways to get them to settle down and focus on activities.

My very first session was also my favorite. I attended something called “Campfire” and I was surprised when I walked in the room. Instead of a PowerPoint projector and rows of seats, I found a darkened room, a fake fire pit in the middle, and chairs spread all around in a circle. There were people in chairs, standing along the sides, and even sitting on the floor. It was clear this program was the one to attend, and people continued to flock in right up to the end of the session.

The important thing I gleaned from this session wasn’t that people like campfires (although they clearly do!), but that there is a fine balance in the ways people remember things, especially children. Children need a balance of the sentimental and the ridiculous, and that balance from the campfire can easily be transferred over to the camp dynamic. Campers enjoy both serious learning opportunities and the chance to play and relax their brains and bodies. A successful camp will have that balance of both, creating one complete experience. My goal for this summer is to find and create that perfect balance where campers and counselors are not only learning, but also enjoying their summer. Let’s bring the fun back!

Written by Michelle Brannon, naturalist, Riverbend Park

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .

About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s