Fun and Programming Expands at Lakefront Parks

But wait! There’s more!

We felt a little like a late night television commercial pitchman. We had three supremely popular parks that you’ve been visiting, and yet many people were missing much of what was there. Families were coming to Burke Lake for the train and carousel, to Lake Fairfax for The Water Mine, and to Lake Accotink for mini-golf and a carousel. Yet these parks have much more to offer, and we wanted you and other park visitors to know that. We also thought that educating folks about the care of resources that is required at these parks is important, too. So we came up with an idea that makes the parks more fun, more educational, and that includes taking care of our favorite parks.

The Park Authority’s three lakefront parks are like the chocolate chips in a cookie — large chunks of nature in the midst of a generally suburban county, and they are ideal platforms for teaching about the outdoors. Because teaching resource stewardship is one of the mandates of the Park Authority, the agency’s staff started looking for improved ways to do that using the built-in audience that already exists at the lakefront parks. So they came up with the perfect idea, and then they found the perfect person for that position.

Naturalist Tony Bulmer was plucked from Ellanor C. Lawrence Park and assigned the task of establishing high quality stewardship programs at our lakefront parks. He was free to build on whatever was already in the parks. For example, at Burke Lake that meant expanding existing birding programs to add classes that would take place on the tour boat that was already in the park.


Bulmer’s goal is to bring more nature programs to all of our lakefront gems. That means, along with the birding programs at Burke Lake Park, residents will have the opportunity to look for amphibians after dark, survey reptiles, and view bats feeding over the lake.


Three new educational programs that include conducting surveys of animals are allowing visitors to explore the worlds of reptiles, bats, and amphibians after dark. Fairfax County parks are closed at night except for fishermen on the water who launched at the Burke Lake state boat ramp. Bulmer wants to give participants in these new programs a chance to see what’s in the park in the dark.


The lakefront classes will center on natural resources that are specific to these lakefront parks.


There are plans for new winter programs as well, especially for adventurous individuals. Bulmer is planning an overnight backpack trek from South Run RECenter into woods adjacent to the RECenter and through the stream valley below the Burke Lake dam to the campground at Burke Lake Park. Class participants will spend a night winter-camping at Burke Lake, and then hike back to their cars at South Run the next day.

One of Bulmer’s programming goals is to teach you and other park users some little thing that will make your day/life/moment a little better, a little more knowledgeable, a little more fulfilled……..just a little bit better.


Bulmer’s long-term goal is stewardship education, ultimately providing visitors with a sense of their place in the natural world. He wants you and other park lovers who are already coming to the lakefront parks to view those parks in a new way – a way that includes taking care of these beautiful parks.


School and scout field trips are part of the new programming. Merit badges and Standards of Learning (SOL), the minimum expectations for students in Virginia public schools, were considered during the planning.


For more information on lakefront park programs, click the links.

Programs at Burke Lake

Programs at Lake Accotink

Programs at Lake Fairfax



Author David Ochs is the Manager of Stewardship Communications for the Resource Management Division of the Fairfax County Park Authority.

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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.

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