Energy Management in Parks: We’re saving resources, your money, and Earth

Energy-Great Falls Nike ParkReduce our carbon footprint. Reduce our energy use. Reduce pollution. Become more energy efficient.

Those words describe today’s environmental movement, and they mean, “We’re taking care of the earth.”

We’re using those words frequently inside the Fairfax County Park Authority because we’re doing our part to take care of our portion of the earth. Behind those words is a simple thought. If you use less energy, then you create less pollution. And to that list you can add “provide better service.”

In 2013, the Park Authority Board adopted the county’s energy policy, confirming a commitment to promote energy efficiency and conservation. Next came a plan to develop and implement an energy management program for park facilities. We’re executing that plan now by monitoring our energy consumption, improving our facilities, and reviewing those improvements to track their effectiveness. We named an energy manager to oversee the changes.

Making Parks Energy Efficient

We invite you to look inside the Park Authority to see what we are doing to reduce our energy consumption, which protects your county resources and reflects responsible use of finances.

Let’s start with lights. Many parks require lighting for large indoor and outdoor spaces – ball fields, tennis courts, RECenters, and so on. These spaces present opportunities to drastically cut energy use and promote energy efficiency. We’ve upgraded lighting and control systems that, in some places, have cut energy use more than 70%.Energy-Audrey Moore REC

Here are some of the places we’ve upgraded lighting systems:

  • Audrey Moore RECenter gymnasium
  • Cub Run RECenter swimming pools
  • Green Spring Gardens, indoor and outdoor
  • Lee District tennis and volleyball courts
  • Laurel Hill Golf Club, indoor and outdoor
  • Area 2 Maintenance and turf crew buildings and maintenance shop
  • Frying Pan Farm parking lot (solar lighting)
  • Mason District soccer field
  • Great Falls Nike soccer field

Improved illumination offered by indoor and outdoor LED lighting and new control systems have provided benefits such as:

  • Significant energy savings/cost avoidance
  • Significant maintenance cost avoidance
  • Better light and color uniformity and consistency
  • Longer equipment life cycle
  • More control because of instant-on lights and astronomical timers
  • Dark sky compliance

New equipment and updated amenities are the most visible changes county residents will notice, and we’ve heard from some regular visitors that they love the improved lighting. We love the energy savings and cost avoidance that ranges from 45% at athletic fields up to 75% at some indoor pools and gymnasiums.

energy-Cub Run RECOther examples of energy improvement projects include Variable Frequency Drive systems installed for pool pumps and web-based, smart irrigation systems installed at parks.

Both the county and park boards and management teams support these projects, and the County Environmental Program has funded some energy management projects to enhance environmental benefits.

What’s Next?

Upgrading facilities will advance the Park Authority’s energy efficiency. The FCPA also is moving toward automated control for HVAC systems to monitor and optimize energy usage. Incorporating more solar systems where feasible is a part of plans for future energy projects.

The FCPA is a leading steward of the county’s resources. We know we have an impact on our community, and we take that seriously. Energy-efficient programs maintain the beauty of the parks and protect natural resources. For example, the outdoor lighting upgrades are all Dark Sky compliant, which means minimal light pollution to surrounding areas. We hope we set an example that our fellow residents will follow when they take on home projects such as changing outdoor light fixtures on their homes. Imagine the incredible impact on light pollution across Fairfax County if every individual homeowner and individual business would follow our lead and install Dark Sky compliant lighting on their own small parcel of District Park

New energy-efficient projects will roll out in the future. In the planning stages are improved athletic field, court and parking lot lighting and controls, water usage monitoring systems for RECenters, automation control for RECenter HVAC systems, the purchase of energy-efficient lawnmowers, and other building and facility updates. These myriad projects will reduce our carbon footprint, our energy use, our pollution, and improve service to facility, park and RECenter guests.

Those of us who work at the Park Authority are dedicated to developing an energy management program for park facilities. Energy efficiency, better lighting, and more efficient air and pool temperature controls. Less energy use. Less pollution.

We’re taking care of your resources and our planet.

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.

2 thoughts on “Energy Management in Parks: We’re saving resources, your money, and Earth

    1. Fairfax County Park Authority Post author

      Thank you for your comment. The Park Authority has a long track record of successfully saving energy and working to be “green” but only just joined in the county effort to brag about it via blogs and information dashboard. We are very proud to report that we led the way hiring staff to address these issues in 2007. Since 2009, our estimated savings (cost avoidance) have been over $1.5 million dollars. Equally important are the new approaches to reducing pollutants that degrade our environment. Thank you for your interest.


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