Fairfax County 2020 Earth Day Festival: 50 Years of Environmental Awareness

BL Scenic050319_0007Fifty years ago, you could fill your car’s fuel tank with gas for 36 cents a gallon. Most people didn’t worry about how many miles they could travel on each gallon of gas.

Folks in industrial areas had grown used to skies filled with hazy, polluted air and waters that were unfit for swimming. There were no recycling bins at the curb, and English ivy was considered decorative — not invasive.

The first Earth Day, in 1970, was about to change that way of thinking. Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson came up with the idea for a national day to focus on the environment. The senator was inspired by the student anti-war movement of the time and wanted to find a way to channel that energy into an event that put environmental protection on the national political agenda.

In 1970, an estimated 20 million Americans – 10 percent of the population – took part in Earth Day activities. This year, a billion people in more than 190 countries are expected to participate.

Earth Day LogoOn Saturday, April 25, 2020, Fairfax County will mark the Golden Anniversary of Earth Day at Sully Historic Site with the Fairfax County 2020 Earth Day Festival, sponsored by the Fairfax County Park Authority. The event, formerly known as Springfest, will gather families from across the county for a day of fun and educational activities centered around the theme “Healthy People – Healthy Plant.”

For the Park Authority, every day is Earth Day. The agency owns and manages 427 parks on more than 23,500 acres of land. Throughout the year, Park Authority staff organize watershed clean-up days and invasive management events.Cub Run Stream Clean_040718_0330

Naturalists run programming for residents of all ages to introduce them to local plants and animals. The programs highlight the environmental importance of creatures ranging from the tiny macroinvertebrates in local streams to the raptors and coyotes at the top of the woodland food chain. HM Children's prog_052715_0205Some classes allow participants to play an active part in environmental stewardship. For instance, you can learn about important pollinators, such as bees and bats, and build homes for them to hang in your own yard.

Time spent in nature has curative powers for people, and in Fairfax County, 90 percent of people live within a half-mile of parkland.


More than 7,000 of those people volunteer in parks each year, providing close to 200,000 hours of service. There are plenty of ways to get involved in environmental stewardship in this special anniversary year of Earth Day.

Find volunteer opportunities online, join a Friends Group to support a specific park, register your kids for camps and classes to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards, and be a good park visitor – stay on trails, dispose of trash properly, keep your dog on a leash, and don’t forget that poop bag.

It’s the small things which make a tremendous difference. Environmentalist Rachel Carson wrote, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

Author Carol Ochs works in the Park Authority’s Public Information Office.

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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 https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/social-hub/ for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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