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