Park Planning Director Retires Following Distinguished Career

bowdenIf you’ve ever visited a Fairfax County park, chances are good you have felt some of Dave Bowden’s impact on the community. Bowden retires this summer as the Director of the Park Authority’s Planning and Development Division after more than two decades of dedicated service to the county and involvement in hundreds of park projects.

When asked to reflect on Bowden’s tenure at the Park Authority, Park Board Chairman William Bouie said, “When I think of exceptional people and leaders, they always find a path to YES.  They make things happen. That is my apt description of Dave Bowden. If they ever write a book about Dave, the title should be ‘The Path to YES.’

Bowden has spent more than 12 of the past years in the director’s role, but he also worked for the Park Authority from 1985 to 1994 as Chief of the Project Management Branch in the Facility Development Division.

In that first role, he executed capital investment projects as part of a 10-year, multi-million-dollar Capital Construction Bond Program. He was responsible for all aspects of project delivery, and he delivered four major recreation center complexes using one of the first Construction Management at Risk Contracts with a Guaranteed Maximum Price in Virginia. As the project management chief, he was consistently commended for meeting project schedules and budgets to effectively fulfill the Board’s Strategic Plan.

Upon his return to the Park Authority as Planning & Development Director, Bowden was responsible for providing $240 million dollars in parks and recreation facilities to residents of Fairfax County over 10 years through voter-approved bond funds and another $50 million in park improvements through partnerships with developers, youth sports groups, non-profits and Friends Groups. He oversaw the activities of 40 professional engineers and planners and directed staff in land acquisition, planning, design, contracting, project management and new ventures for development of park and recreation facilities. He also was responsible for directing and coordinating the agency’s long-range plans and strategies for implementing the plans, including the Capital Improvement Program.

Bowden took pride in developing nationally recognized park facilities with partners such as:

  • The Joey Pizzano Memorial Fund for development of fully-inclusive Chessie’s Big Back Yard Family Recreation Area, which includes a unique inclusive spray park
  • The Analemma Society for development of Observatory Park, which includes a state-of-the art innovative roll-top observatory facility
  • Local youth sports organizations in development of synthetic turf fields to increase playing time for youth
  • The Washington Nationals Baseball Team and Major League Baseball in development of the Bryce Harper Baseball Field Complex to provide local youth with an exceptional facility and help the Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball celebrate the 2018 All-Star game in Washington, DC

Bowden 2Bowden worked with the Park Authority Board for buy-in with agency strategic initiatives, including the Capital Improvement Plan, and routinely reported progress on plans to the Park Authority Board. He prepared the Division’s yearly operating budget and capital construction budget and monitored expenditures for efficient use of funds. He was a strong representative for the Park Authority in matters of park planning and development at other Board and Commission meetings and represented the agency in meetings with public and private sector officials and citizen groups.

Park Authority Director Kirk Kincannon calls Bowden “a rock star among rock stars. Always willing to go the extra mile to get the work completed and deliver a successful project, Dave’s can-do attitude and his talents have been a tremendous benefit to the Park Authority team during his tenure as Planning and Development Director. In my 40 years in the profession, Dave is the best I have ever worked with in Planning and Development.”

In addition to his years at the Park Authority, Bowden served the public and members of the military in his roles at the U.S. Army Community & Family Support Center in Alexandria, Virginia; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Washington, D.C.; and the Virginia Department of Transportation in Fairfax, Virginia. He has been responsible for providing more than $750 million in parks and recreation facilities to Fairfax County residents and members of the military services stationed here and abroad.

Throughout his career, Bowden was commended for Outstanding Performance and meeting project schedules and budgets. He received the Army’s Superior Civilian Service Award and two Commander’s Awards for Civilian Service, as well as the Design-Build Institute of America’s Special Recognition Award for Advancement of Design-Build in the Public Sector.

In describing Bowden’s contributions to the Park Authority, Deputy Director Sarah Baldwin said, “Dave has managed the acquisition, planning and development of hundreds of park projects during his tenure with the Park Authority. His tireless efforts to provide a Gold Medal park system for the community will be felt for generations to come.”

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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.

1 thought on “Park Planning Director Retires Following Distinguished Career

  1. Roberta Longworth

    Congratulations on your retirement, Dave.
    Some of the most memorable Park Foundation fundraising projects, including Chessie’s BIG Backyard & Carousel; to the Lt. Col. Gary F. Smith Memorial Field; to Burke Lake Park Shelter Project; and future Clemyjontri Park improvements, were successful thanks to the cooperative partnership with the P&D team under your leadership.
    Wishing you all the best as you take a well deserved post retirement break.
    All the best, Bobbi Longworth


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