The Park Authority has attracted many great leaders throughout its history. Another well-known and respected alumni and friend of our park system has passed. The Park Authority was recently notified that Frank de la Fe, a longtime resident of Reston, a County Planning Commissioner and a former at-large Member and Chairman of the Park Authority Board died.
Park Authority Executive Director Kirk Kincannon responded to his death writing, “Frank served with distinction on the Park Authority Board for nearly six years, from 1996 through December 2001. He had a unique brand and style of leadership which allowed the Park Authority to thrive under his care. It was during this time that a renewed and healthy relationship with the Board of Supervisors was firmly established. The Park Authority acquired its 20,000th acre of parkland during his tenure and created invaluable partnerships with the community, businesses and other government agencies. Under Chairman de la Fe, the Park Foundation was created, a Strategic Plan was adopted, a new vision statement embraced and bond referenda approved by the voters. He often shared his commitment to development of a park system that served a diverse community and left no one behind.”
Kincannon added, “That’s the short story. Frank brought personal tenacity, a sense of fair play and a demand for excellence that set the stage for what the Park Authority has become today – a nationally recognized Park system providing quality facilities and services to our community.”
Paul Baldino, another Park Authority colleague recalled,” I had the good fortune to be appointed Director of the Fairfax County Park Authority and serve under Chairman Frank de la Fe. His leadership, wisdom, skill in working with staff, no-nonsense attitude, and wry humor changed the strategic direction of the organization and racked up a series of accomplishments that continue to benefit the outstanding park system enjoyed by Fairfax County residents.”
He was named Citizen of the Year by the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations in 2001. He was described as an agent of change and the driving force behind a land acquisition program that resulted in the preservation of more than 4,000 acres of open space during his tenure. In partnership with the Board of Supervisors, he was able to turn $20 million in bonds into $37 million worth of land resources.
His attributes were many and were captured in a program from the Citizen of the Year celebration which described de la Fe as, “A native of Cuba who understood and promoted a multifaceted approach to diversity in our neighborhoods.” Frank understood the need to provide services to people from many backgrounds and circumstances, and he never lost sight of the special needs of all residents for open space, quiet areas and places to peacefully enjoy nature.
Frank championed equitable access to athletic fields, supported skate parks to address the needs of teens, he envisioned off leash dog parks and espoused the need for transparency in all decisions of the Park Board and a means by which residents’ opinions could be heard. During his tenure the Water Mine opened at Lake Fairfax Park; plans to build Cub Run RECenter were made, the Park Foundation was formed, the Cross County Trail was proposed, and Clemyjontri Park property was donated. Those were merely the highlights of six years of success with Frank at the helm.
Park Authority Board Chairman Bill Bouie recalled his friendship and collaboration with Frank noting, “I worked with Frank on many projects through the years and he was always a great sounding board. Thank you Frank for your service, your friendship and dedication. You will be missed my friend.”
The family has asked that donations be made to the Park Foundation in his memory. For information visit online at www.fairfaxparkfoundation.org