Despite the frigid temperatures, visitors ventured into county parks on January 1 to take part in the First Hike photo contest. The Park Authority got the New Year off to a healthy start with its Healthy Strides calendar and monthly tips to help everyone work on better eating, more physical activity and more sleep. Park acreage grew with the acquisition of eight acres of land near Loisdale Park. The FCPA announced that outdated lighting on the basketball court at South District Park would be replaced with new energy-efficient lighting to benefit the environment, save money and make basketball players happy. Park Board members got ready for the year ahead by electing officers for 2018.
In February, camp registration opened for more than 1,900 FCPA summer camps. The Park Board voted to rename Athletic Field 5 at South Run Regional Park in honor of Jack Nolan, a longtime leader and supporter of youth soccer in the Springfield District. The Park Authority spread the word that Backlick Park, Griffith Park, Lisle Park and Wakefield Park would be getting updated playgrounds thanks to the Playground Replacement Project, and work was scheduled to begin on the Dead Run Stream Restoration project.
Audrey Moore RECenter helped parents and kids decide on the perfect summer camp by providing fun activities and one-stop shopping at Camp Fair. The Park Board approved a new Cultural Resource Management Plan, and Dr. Abena Aidoo was appointed to the Park Board, filling the at-large vacancy left by the retiring Walter Alcorn. A call went out for volunteers to help with the Invasive Management Area’s Take Back the Forest effort in April and May, and staff members were encouraged to honor amazing volunteers with nominations for the annual Elly Doyle awards.
Burke Lake Park welcomed spring with the three-day Baskets and Bunnies event, and March 30 marked the application deadline for paid internships at Sully Historic Site through the Margaret C. Peck Youth Internship program. A public information meeting was held to discuss using historic Ash Grove house as a Resident Curator Property, and fans of Clemyjontri Park were asked to “pardon our dust” as work was scheduled to begin on a parking lot addition. Construction work also was scheduled on Marina Road at Burke Lake Park and on the conversion of Field 4 in Nottoway Park into a multi-sports field. Mastenbrook Grants were awarded to fund new features at Our Special Harbor sprayground and for improvements on diamond fields 1 and 2 at Fred Crabtree Park.
As warmer weather arrived, Sully Historic Site hosted a day full of free activities at SpringFest, and winners of the Park Authority’s annual Poetry Contest shared their works during the event. Riverbend Park hosted the beautiful Bluebell Festival, and Burke Lake Park was the spot to see runners at the Healthy Strides 2018 Community 5K, 10K and Fun Run. The first open hire events were held to gear up for the Rec-PAC summer camp program, and the FCPA’s 11 Farmers Markets began opening for the season. Master Gardeners opened monthly information booths at several of the county’s community garden plots to offer advice on growing vegetables
The newly-completed Lee District Family Recreation Area was honored with an award from the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials in the Park & Recreation Facility category, and Jean and Ric Edelman were honored with an Outstanding Contributor Award for their support of Observatory Park at The Turner Farm. A ceremony was held to rename Athletic Field 5 at South Run District Park in honor of Jack Nolan. Restoration work began on a highly degraded stream in Long Branch Falls Park, on Phase 1 construction at Monticello Park, and on a new indoor practice facility at Pinecrest Golf Course. A community meeting was held to discuss options for the future of Lake Accotink Park, and an open house was held at Ash Grove House as applications were being accepted for a resident curator.
In May, the new RecDynamics registration system for park programs was launched, and a bell rang at the Government Center to mark the official opening of the 2018 Government Center Farmers Market. More than two dozen children recited the oath of citizenship at the Children’s Naturalization Ceremony at Sully Historic Site. Adventurers set out on the 2018 Discovery Trail, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the new playground at Bucknell Manor Park, and new features were added to Our Special Harbor sprayground. The Park Authority sought public comment on its new Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2019-2023, a community information meeting was held on plans to renovate and expand Mount Vernon RECenter, and residents were invited to a meeting on use of the historic Lahey Lost Valley house as a Resident Curator property.
The Park Authority received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association for its 2017 Fiscal Year Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. The Board of Supervisors named James P. Zook to fill the vacant at-large seat on the Park Board. Parkland grew by more than 20 acres thanks to land transfers in the Lee and Mount Vernon districts. Little Leaguers received Mastenbrook grants for improvements at Pine Ridge Park and Reston North Park, and Pimmit Run Trail was impacted by work on a pedestrian bridge replacement. As the month came to a close, members of the military and their families enjoyed a free admission day at park facilities in observation of Memorial Day.
June brought a new beginning to the Park Authority as the Board approved a Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2019-2023. Visitors from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) spent a few whirlwind days at the agency reviewing documents, taking tours and meeting with staff as they prepared recommendations on FCPA accreditation. After years of work, the Lee District Family Recreation Area marked completion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Chessie’s Trail. A ribbon-cutting also was held for the new Hidden Pond Nature Center playground. Anglers were invited to fish for free at the beginning of the month as part of the state’s Free Fishing Days program, and a state study found that the fish community looks good at Lake Fairfax. Toes were tapping as the Summer Entertainment Series began, and a new Springfield Nights concert series was added at Burke Lake Park. Dads were treated to the 45th Annual Antique Car Show on Father’s Day at Sully Historic Site, and the Fairfax County Farmers Markets celebrated Bike to Market Week at select locations in collaboration with the county’s transportation department.
June was filled with community outreach events, too. A public meeting was held on updates to the park Alcohol Policy. The RECenter sustainability study was presented at a public meeting, and community members were invited to review a draft of the Lake Fairfax Park Master Plan Revision. Public meetings were also held to discuss proposed improvements at Rocky Run Stream Valley and a Sustainable Trail Plan for Mount Vernon District Park. Patrons got a chance to Go Ape a little longer as the park facility extended its nighttime hours.
In addition, it was a time for honors. The Park Authority received eight awards from the National Association of Government Communicators for writing, publications and promotional work, and the Beatrix Farrand Landscape at Green Spring Gardens was added to the Historic American Landscapes Survey at the Library of Congress. Staff briefed the Park Board on achievements under the Natural Resource Management Plan. Board members approved Mastenbrook grants to install new fencing at Poplar Tree Park, help restore a meadow at Marie Butler Leven Preserve and purchase equestrian jumps at Frying Pan Farm Park. Work began on the Bull Neck Run Stream Restoration and on a new access road at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. As the month closed, residents were invited to celebrate July 4th a little early with fireworks at Lake Fairfax Park.
In July, the Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper cut the ribbon and threw the first pitch at the new All-Star Complex bearing his name at Fred Crabtree Park. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the new trackless train and picnic area at Clemyjontri Park, too. The Park Authority announced that Hidden Oaks Visitor Center Manager Suzanne Holland was named a Shining Star of Interpretation by the National Association for Interpretation. Construction work began on the Idylwood Park parking lot and on the Pohick Stream Valley Trail, and renovations got underway at Oak Marr Golf Complex’s driving range. The Park Board made paddlers happy by approving Mastenbrook grants to fund the purchase of new canoes at Riverbend Park.
Staff and volunteers won kudos in August. The American Alliance of Museums accredited the Resource Management Division’s Historic Artifacts Collection, Colvin Run Mill, Sully Historic Site, Green Spring Gardens and Frying Pan Farm Park for their commitment to excellence. Volunteer excellence was recognized when the Elly Doyle award winners were announced.
Frying Pan Farm Park played host to the 70th Annual Fairfax County 4-H Fair and Carnival, and there was a blast from the past as drive-in movies returned to the Starlight Drive-in Cinema in Centreville. Sully Historic Site was forced to quit building fires in its 18th century kitchen when chimney swifts decided to make the building’s chimney a temporary home. Construction work began on the Wilton Woods playground, and the county sprayed for mosquitoes at two parks to reduce the risk of West Nile Virus.
September was celebration time as the Park Authority earned reaccreditation by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies. It once again met all 151 national standards to earn the designation. The new Valis Family Golf Learning Center opened at Pinecrest Golf Course, and a ribbon-cutting was held at the new Griffith Park playground. Riverbend Park hosted the annual Virginia Indian Festival, and Frying Pan Farm Park provided refuge for nine horses affected by Hurricane Florence.
A ribbon-cutting was held at the new multi-sport field at Nottoway Park, trail maintenance began at Sugarland Run Stream Valley Park, and stream restoration work began at Indian Run Stream Valley Park. The Park Authority joined with Bike Fairfax to welcome cyclists to the Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail as part of National Bike Your Park Day festivities, and it joined with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to hold a public meeting on new rules governing the use of drones in parks. An open house was held at Lahey Lost Valley as the search continued for a resident curator. The Park Board approved a new Alcohol Policy for the parks and changes to the Mount Vernon District Park Master Plan.
The Park Authority honored its own in October with the annual Trailblazer awards. Oak Marr’s newly renovated driving range opened to the public. Park sites marked National Lands Day with activities such as the cleanups at Scott’s Run and Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. The Ghost Train pulled out of the station at Burke Lake Park, Sully Historic Site hosted Historic All Hallows Eve festivities, and folks had a spook-tacular time at Lake Accotink Park’s annual Fall Festival. The agency celebrated Archaeology Month with a month-long social media campaign to raise awareness of archaeology in the county, and trout season opened at Lake Fairfax.
A cow that decided to make a break from its new home at Frying Pan Farm became a social media star. An open house was held at Ellmore Farmhouse as the resident curator application period opened, and applications were being taken for resident curator for the Lahey Lost Valley property. The Park Authority hosted a public hearing on a proposed exchange of property in the Mason District, and Park Board members approved Mastenbrook grants to help control invasive plants in the Turkeycock Run Stream Valley and to install scoreboards at Clermont Park.
The award-winning year for the Park Authority continued into November. The agency garnered three statewide awards for excellence from the Virginia Recreation and Park Society, including honors for Chessie’s Trail. It was honored with a Best of Aquatics 2018 Programming Award from Aquatics International for excellence and innovation in aquatics programs and facilities for its Virginia Swims program. The agency also honored its outstanding volunteers and supporters at the annual Elly Doyle Park Service Awards ceremony.
A ribbon was cut on the new playground and off-leash dog park at Monticello Park, and Backlick Park officially reopened after major renovations. A bench was dedicated at Huntley Meadows Park in honor of late Park Director William “Bill” Beckner, and a lease-signing ceremony was held for the new resident curator for Turner Farmhouse. Trail improvements began on a section of the Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail, and work got underway on the Sugarland Run Stream Valley Maintenance Project. The Park Board approved Mastenbrook grants to develop community garden plots at Bruin Park, install fencing on field 6 at Pine Ridge Park and purchase a portable ADA compliant mounting ramp for Frying Pan’s equestrian area.
The Park Authority expressed its thanks to service members and their families by offering free admission to park facilities in honor of Veterans Day. As Thanksgiving approached, the agency encouraged county residents to head to a park and Opt Outside on Black Friday, instead of heading to a mall.
Audrey Moore RECenter kicked off the month of December by playing host to the 41st Annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Show, and Green Spring Gardens held its annual Gardener’s Holiday Open House and Puppet Show. Burke Lake Park welcomed visitors to its Winter Wonderland and new Celebration Station, and visitors rode through festive holiday lights on the Starlight Express at Lake Fairfax. Sully Historic Site hosted special candlelight tours, and Santa was spotted at parks throughout the county.