Category Archives: Uncategorized

Love at First Sight: A Bewitching Plant

IMGP0667_edited-1I don’t believe in love at first sight.  However, there’s new research from the Netherlands that offers evidence of the “love at first sight” phenomenon.   

The study (Zsok, Haucke, DeWest, and Barelds, 2019) shows that you can feel love at first sight if the people are beautiful and your experience is a “strong pull or attraction.” So, you ask, “What does this have to do with witch hazels?” 

I’ve been a Green Spring Extension Master Gardener for a few years and have watched witch hazels grow at Green Springs Gardens in all seasons. They bring color by blooming in the winter garden and serve as a placeholder in the summer.  

witch2An early morning January passage into Green Spring along Witch Hazel Drive after a steady snowfall is a winter wonderland. Bushes and trees and witch hazel flowers on each side of the road, covered in snow that’s flecked with color. They enchant with mustard yellow, golden shades that sparkle in sunshine. There’s love at first sight and a strong pull from the beautiful witch hazel named ‘Frederic’ (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Frederic’) —one of more than 150 witch hazels that line and ornament the road. 

Witch hazels, introduced to the west in 1879 by botanist Charles Maries at the Veitch Nurseries, one of Europe’s largest nurseries, are easy-to-grow deciduous shrubs or small trees. They are maintenance-free and resistant to pests, disease and deer. Most varieties reach 10-20 feet high and wide, and they can be pruned after blooming to keep them small. Witch hazels are one of the few trees that can bear fruit, leaves and flowers simultaneously. They thrive in woodland areas in soils that are moist, well-drained and lightly acid. They like rich organic matter and grow in full sun. 

Greenspring Color fcpaGreen Spring is home to a national witch hazel collection. In 2006, the collection was recognized by the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC). The NAPCC encourages public gardens to adopt collections of specific genera, maintain them, and make them available to the public, researchers and other public gardens. The NAPCC has strict requirements for collection eligibility that includes the number and variety of species in each collection. The purpose of this national effort is to establish collections for conservation, education and research. Green Spring’s collection has more than 200 witch hazels in 110 taxa, including native, Asian and hybrid species. The logo for Green Spring is a stylized illustration of the witch hazel flower and leaf.  

Some people have believed that witch hazel leaves and bark made into a tea could heighten occult powers. Others have used it for medicinal reasons, although there’s insufficient evidence that it works in many of those situations. History research reveals Mohicans showing English settlers how to use Y-shaped witch hazel sticks for dowsing, an ancient method for locating underground water. 

Witch hazel shrubs are worth exploring at Green Spring and in your own garden. Maybe you’ll fall in love at first sight. 

 More about Green Spring’s witch hazels: 

Author Gioia Caiola Forman is a Green Spring Extension Master Gardener and a board member of the Friends of Green Spring. 

Photos and collection information courtesy of Brenda Skarpol, Green Spring’s Curatorial Horticulturist. Green Spring Extension Master Gardeners Karen Aftergut and Kay Cooper contributed to the article’s research. 

For more information on the Green Spring Extension Master Gardener program, contact or call 703-228-6414. 




Who You Gonna Call? Archaeology and Collections!

While some Park Authority employees are dedicated to a single site, the Resource Management Division’s cultural resources staff can turn up just about anywhere. These folks are dedicated to preserving the past and provide help and support in a variety of ways to parks and properties throughout the county.

Walney Exterior_081613_0017

Walney Visitor Center at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park

For example, archaeologists conduct investigations before park development or other ground-disturbing activities to make sure resources are not harmed. The archaeologists have been at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park three times in recent months. First, they excavated to clear an area for storm water management near the Walney Visitor Center. Next, they cleared the alignment of a future drainage line at Middlegate. Most recently, the archaeologists conducted a Phase I identification survey at the future location of the Sully Woodlands Stewardship Education Center. That’s a survey through research and fieldwork to determine whether there are resources and where they are. The archaeologists identified one new archaeological site but determined that the small number of artifacts found were likely redeposited from up slope. So, they gave the go-ahead for development.


Excavation work at Old Colchester.

Archaeology’s main work is at Old Colchester, where excavations continue to reveal aspects of the colonial port town. Currently, there’s a mystery to solve. Walls should meet at 90 degrees, but a pair at Colchester do not. Archaeologists plan to open more area to see if they can figure out why one wall is at an awkward angle.


They do know the structure dates to the late 18th century and is most likely part of what is depicted on Rochambeau’s 1782 map. Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, was commander in chief of the French expeditionary army during the American Revolution.

You know you should keep an inventory of valuables in your house, and the Collections folks are invaluable at keeping that inventory for the Park Authority. The Collections Management Office conducts full inventories of the accessioned collections items at each site every three years on a rotating basis. Accessioning is the formal process of documentation for new items added to the agency’s collections. Sully Historic Site was inventoried last year and Colvin Run Mill the year before. Frying Pan Farm Park is being inventoried this year during the park’s slower winter months. Site staff help with the inventories. The inventories confirm the location of items and document their current condition with notes and photographs. All of this information is entered into the Collections Management database, Re:discovery. This keeps the Park Authority’s information up-to-date and searchable, which allows for better access to the collections.

Collections also asks sites to allow it to see any potential media posts about items from the Permanent Collection so staff can review them for accuracy and copyright concerns before publication. The Park Authority has many objects on loan from other institutions with stipulations about their use, proper attribution or photography. For example, the Collections Office worked with Sully Historic Site on its social media posts about collections items for the historic site’s #tuesdaytakeover in December.

Staff members with an eye on the past are working on the Resident Curator Program, too. Under this program, underused historic properties are being given new life by curators who restore the properties in exchange for rent-free living. Staff recently concluded excavations at the 18th-century Ash Grove house. They also provided historic photos of the renovation of Lahey Lost Valley from the 1940s that focused on the house windows to assist in repair efforts following vandalism.artiFACTS

In addition, Archaeology and Collections folks work with the Public Information Office each month to share an item from the Park Authority’s collections with the public through the artiFACTS web page.

You can follow the work of the County Archaeological Research Team on the C.A.R.T. Archaeology blog.

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

Historic Letter Sheds Light on People Enslaved at Huntley

CW at Huntley_040514_0300_1A 173-year-old letter is teaching people about slavery and bringing neighbors together. The story blends local history, Historic Huntley, The Friends of Historic Huntley, George Mason’s Gunston Hall and George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

betsey to John Washington re slavesIn January 2018, The Friends of Historic Huntley (FOHH) purchased a letter written in 1845 by Betsey Mason, Thomson F. Mason’s widow and former owner of, what is now, Historic Huntley in Alexandria, Virginia. The Curator of Collections at Gunston Hall, Samantha Dorsey, had emailed FOHH President Todi Carnes to tell her that a Betsey Mason letter was to be sold at auction in two days. Three hours later, Carnes emailed the FOHH board with a link to the letter asking if the Friends should attempt to acquire it. The suggested starting value was $600. By the end of the day, a majority consensus was established, and there was no question that FOHH should preserve this important piece of Huntley history. Several Huntley representatives immediately went to the auction house, The Potomack betsey to John Washington re slaves addressCompany in Old Town, to verify the letter’s condition. They found it in perfect condition on high quality paper complete with remnants of black sealing wax (indicating mourning).

The auction was the following day. I was among three Huntley representatives, none of whom had been to an auction, who watched, listened and learned for three hours. When the letter’s lot number was up, the auctioneer reported that off-site bidding was up to $1,200. Did he hear $1,300 from the floor? I was so surprised by the amount that I failed to put up the paddle. I had to be nudged into action, and that is how the Friends of Historic Huntley became the owners of this significant and coveted letter.

Why so eager to preserve this letter? The subject matter is slavery, which is of vital importance to telling the story of the people of Historic Huntley.

The letter is addressed to Fairfax County Magistrate John Augustine Washington III, great-grandnephew of George Washington and the last private owner of Mount Vernon.

Here is the letter in part:

To John A. Washington Esqr of Mount Vernon

My Dear Sir,

I am just informed that my negroes are to be tried before you for certain offences, which they are supposed to have committed against the law during the recent Christmas holidays. I am glad at least that they will receive their trial before a man of honor & sensibility to the rights of & feelings of the slave as well as the slaveholder & feeling that confidence in you, yield to this painful necessity, urged upon me however at a time by those who might under the circumstances of my family, have had a gentler feeling for me….

The letter’s purpose appears to be to influence the magistrate with flattery and to appeal for sympathy. Fairfax County Park Authority Historian Cheryl Repetti reached out to the Mount Vernon Estate while she was researching the letter’s contents, and a fortunate piecing together of historic documents resulted. Mount Vernon Special Collections Librarian Katherine Hoarn found a record of sentencing in John A. Washington’s journal. The accused are listed by name — Davy, Daniel Humphreys, Harry Ellis, Little Daniel and Sandy – and were charged with trespassing (probably to see family during the holidays). The outcome of the trial is a difficult reminder of the reality of slavery. Davy and Harry Ellis endured 15 lashes and Little Daniel 25.

Betsey Mason letter

The letter went on display for a year, beginning in September 2018, at Mount Vernon’s Lives Bound Together exhibit, continuing the shared benefits of neighbors collaborating. The letter will be returned to the Friends of Historic Huntley after the exhibit.

Photos of the letter are used courtesy of Friends of Historic Huntley.

See the exhibit and enjoy tours of both historic properties on the “Mount Vernon & Huntley, Lives Bound Together Tour” on Thursday, February 28, 2019.

Historic Huntley is open for tours on Saturdays, April-October, at 10:30 a.m., noon, and 1:30 p.m.

Author Carolyn Gamble is a former Huntley staff member, long-time Huntley volunteer, and Friends of Historic Huntley board member.


Gardening Next to a Road


Hell Strip designed by EMG Karen Aftergut.

I garden in a small space. I live in a townhouse and use planters and vertical plantings to get the most variety in my garden. In fall 2014, I enrolled in the Green Spring Gardens Extension Master Gardener (EMG) program. I quickly realized I knew nothing about gardening. The classes were fabulous. The lecturers were experts in the horticulture arena. The topics were in-depth, and most were new to me. I grew pretty flowers and tasty tomatoes, but it stopped there. I was eager to learn. I finished the program and became a certified EMG. EMGs work with the public to encourage and promote environmentally sound horticulture practices through sustainable landscape management.

There was no larger personal gardening space in my personal future, so I volunteered to chair the landscaping committee of my townhouse community, share my new knowledge, and have more soil for playing. The development of 16 townhouses sits on the busy corner of Route 123 and Great Falls Street in McLean, Virginia. It has a welcoming front with garden space that is filled with shrubs the builder planted more than 30 years ago. There are assorted hollies, azaleas, rhododendrons, junipers and skip laurels. I began to garden in the small plot of soil at the entrance to the townhouses. This plot borders a sidewalk, a bus stop, a small strip of soil, grass and a busy street. The soil and grass strip adjacent to a street and sidewalk is called a “hell strip.” You might know it as a parking strip or median strip. Horticulturist Lauren Springer Ogden coined its “hell” name. My initial plan was to develop the hell strip as I planted the community entrance with Virginia natives.


Hell Strip designed by EMG Karen Aftergut.

I started with a soil test. The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) supplies soil test kits free at Fairfax County libraries and farmers’ markets or by calling VCE. You also can pick one up at Green Spring Gardens.

I started cleaning the hell strip of dog poop and weeds. I knew it would be hard to grow any kind of plants on the strip because of the challenging conditions — it lacked water, and it had foot traffic, a large amount of car exhaust, salt from snowmelt and lots of dog poop. The soil test results came back quickly, and I began amending the soil.

As I gardened by the road, it was not unusual for people in cars stopped at the traffic light to roll down the window and chat. I was asked what I was doing. Was I for hire to put down mulch? Where did I buy my plants, and where was the nearest Starbucks? My most memorable question was from a young couple looking desperate with a van full of kids under age five. They handed me a very dirty diaper and asked if I would throw it away.

I sometimes used a Hori-Hori, my favorite garden tool. It’s a heavy, serrated, multi-purpose steel blade. The word “hori” means “to dig” in Japanese. Once while working with the Hori-Hori, a black town car pulled to the curb and a well-dressed Asian gentleman got out and asked if I knew about the tool I was using. He was a big Hori-Hori fan, and we had a delightful conversation about gardening until his driver had to move the car. My least favorite experience came from feisty teenage boys. I was bending over when they stopped at the light and yelled “not a pretty sight.” I did laugh at their arrogance and my old body.

I began to plan the hell strip and learned it was public property regulated by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The Code of Virginia is specific about what you can and cannot do, and there is no room for exceptions. The first thing needed, before any work, was a Land Use Permit from VDOT.

The rules are built around the need for low maintenance, small roots that won’t damage the sidewalk, size restrictions to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act so plants don’t obstruct the sidewalk, and many other considerations. Fairfax Master Gardener Mary Elyn Perkowski wrote an excellent article, “Make Your Hell Strip Less Fiendish,” that outlines VDOT rules and regulations. They also are listed on VDOT’s website for NOVA Permits. There are a variety of tedious forms required with every Land Use Permit Application, including but not limited to a Homeowner Maintenance Agreement for Landscaping, Erosion and a Sediment Control Contractor Certification. It’s a challenging process, but there are many hell strips that have taken on a heavenly look.


Front of author’s townhouse development.

I haven’t filled out any of the applications yet to plant the hell strip. I’m thinking that, for now, I’ll maintain it looking neat and tidy, and dazzle the traffic with the Virginia natives I plant in the community plot.

Author Gioia Caiola Forman is a Green Spring Gardens Extension Master Gardener and a Friends of Green Spring Board Member.

Spotting Wildlife in Winter

Whether you’re a nature photographer or simply an animal lover, winter is a great time to spot wildlife in county parks. With the leaves down, birds and animals are easier to w - heron at huntleysee, and some migrating species only call Fairfax County home during the winter season.

We’ve gathered tips from a few park and recreation sites across the county on what fantastic beasts you might see and where to find them. Green Spring Gardens suggests a circuit hike that may include animal sightings on land, in the air and in the water. Keep reading for some other good wildlife spots.

Green Spring Gardens

In the winter, you can spot many types of wildlife at Green Spring Gardens if you walk in a circle from the parking lot, past the Horticulture Center to the children’s gardens behind the building, down the hill into the woods, past the ponds, and back up the hill towards the Historic House.

Walking near the grassy field between the parking lot and the Green Spring Horticulture Center, you may see Canada geese nibbling on the grass. Looking into the sky above the grassy field, you may spot black vultures riding the thermals. Listen for hawks calling, and you may spot a red-tailed hawk soaring above the field looking for a meal. White-throated sparrows love to call from the thick bushes alongside the back of the white gazebo. Chickadees and Carolina wrens can be found in the smaller bushes and trees near the entrance of the Horticulture Center.

Behind the center, you may spot mockingbirds eating holly berries in the Children’s Garden. In the Discovery Garden, listen for screaming blue jays that love to hang out in the cedar trees by the picnic tables. Gray squirrels love to scamper along the fence behind the picnic tables, and you will often see signs of their lunch on the stumps nearby — walnut shells and broken pinecones.

Walking down the Virginia Native Plant Trail into the woods, you may see a white-tailed deer browsing low-lying shrubs. Without leaves on the trees, you can spot squirrels jumping from branch to branch near their dreys high in the oak trees. You may see nuthatches moving head first down the trunk of a tulip tree or hairy or downy woodpeckers pecking at the smaller trunks of maple trees. If you are lucky and are there at dawn or dusk, you may catch a glimpse of one of the local foxes.

As you cross the bridge, peer into Turkeycock Run and you often will see Northern cardinals bathing in the stream. After you cross the bridge, close to the wooden boardwalk there are many dead trees, perfect for a variety of woodpeckers looking for an insect. The huge oak logs also are a good place to spot squirrels eating a meal of acorns. As you walk along the boardwalk toward the ponds, look for the occasional red fox in the woods.

At the ponds, you probably will see Canada geese, mallard ducks, and maybe a lone great blue heron. If it’s a warmer winter day, you may spot a turtle on the side of the pond sunning or bluegills swimming near the pond surface. If you see and hear crows cawing, they are probably mad at a Cooper’s hawk, who might have a nest near the sycamore tree. Look in the mud along the pond to see the footprints of raccoons and deer.

As you head up the hill toward the parking lot and the Historic House, there are usually squirrels and blue jays foraging on the ground near the willow oak in front of the house as well as sparrows, chickadees and wrens higher up in the branches of trees closer to the parking lot.

Burke Lake Park

See birds you won’t find at other times of the year at Burke Lake during the winter waterfowl migration. As temperatures dipped, staff spotted ring-necked ducks, bufflehead, hooded mergansers, ruddy ducks and horned grebes. As colder temperatures cause waterways to freeze in the North, park personnel expect to see an increase in the diversity of species as well as an increase in their numbers. As always, Burke Lake Park is also an excellent place to spot and photograph bald eagles.

Frying Pan Farm Park


The meadow behind Frying Pan Farm Park’s indoor arena and the service road behind it, including the adjoining woods, are usually the park’s best wildlife viewing spots. There have been deer, foxes, squirrels, hawks, and other birds in the meadow and surrounding trees. Even some wild turkeys one time.

Look for deer, foxes and turkeys while strolling the nature trail and around the trailer parking lot. You might see deer and foxes around the corn field and foxes around the run-in shed for the cattle. A hawk has hung around the trees by the small water jump, along with crows. The crows pop up all over.

There are often mallards or Canada geese in the water catchment basin near the northeast edge of the park and cardinals in the trees along the service road between the intersection and Monroe Street. You also can find birds around the Indoor Arena or along the service road from the Visitors Center to the farm. They may not be wild, but don’t miss seeing the farm animals, too.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center

There are a few spots on the trail at Hidden Oaks that can be great for photo ops and wildlife viewing.

At the first red bridge as you go down the Old Oak Trail from the nature center, there’s a creek where families often stop for a look. Occasionally, you may spot a deer or turtle down by the creek. Behind the nature center is Nature Playce and a pond which are good for black squirrel sightings and frogs in the spring/summer.

Huntley Meadows

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Stroll the Huntley Meadows boardwalk through the park wetlands to spot winter waterfowl such as gadwalls, shovelers, pintails, hooded mergansers, ruddy ducks, canvasbacks and others. In November 2018, staff spotted a merlin and a sora hanging around in the wetland. Capture beautiful landscape views and lighting in winter, too.

Lake Accotink

w - lake accotink map

Lake Accotink has nearly 500 acres of green space, and there are lots of different animals to be seen. There are great locations along the Cross County Trail and the Lake Accotink Trail, which connect to make a four-mile loop trail around the lake and along Accotink Creek.

With the leaves down, hikers along the south side of the lake are likely to see the large bald eagle nest and the breeding pair that live in it. Great blue herons, osprey, and cormorants can be found in and along the edges of the lake. Deer and fox are plentiful throughout the park. Be careful along the main entrance road in the evenings. All along the lake, and especially near the marina, geese and ducks are plentiful. Beaver might be spotted upstream along Accotink Creek. Owls like to hunt in the large open field off of the Heming Road entrance near the McLaren-Sargent Pavilion.

Pinecrest Golf Course

w - mallard at pinecrest

Pinecrest Golf Course is an Audubon International-sanctioned course and has lots of birds that frequent it, such as this mallard duck.

Riverbend Park

The Potomac River attracts a variety of winter waterfowl, and Riverbend Park is a great place for winter birdwatching. Look for flocks of Buffleheads, mergansers, grebes, ring neck ducks, coots, black ducks and swans. To learn more about what you’re seeing, consider registering for one of the park’s Winter Waterfowl Hikes.

 Sully Historic Site

In January, there are wonderful birding opportunities for photographers along the power lines on the eastern edge of Sully Historic Site. There is a small trail there, less than a half-mile, that provides viewing opportunities. Wildlife edge habitat include bluebirds, cedar wax wings, red- shouldered hawks, Cooper’s hawks, raven, deer, red fox, squirrels and chipmunks.

Park Authority 2018 Year in Review


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.

In Memory of Audrey Moore


It’s original name was the Wakefield Park RECenter. Former Annandale Supervisor Audrey Moore played a major role in the park’s creation, and in 2002 the RECenter was named in her honor.

Moore died peaceably at her home Dec. 12, 2018, at age 89. ( ) A Celebration of Life gathering was held at Demaine Funeral Home on December 22, 2018. Contributions in Audrey’s memory may be made to Friends of Accotink Creek,

The Washington Post considered Moore a political maverick in the days she served the county. She was elected to the Annandale District Supervisor position in 1971 and served in that post for 16 years. She was a slow-growth proponent, battling developers and, sometimes, other supervisors.

The board underwent a major change in 1987 when three supervisors were replaced in November elections by candidates promoting a slower growth rate for the county after it had seen rapid development. Moore was elected chairman, defeating three-term incumbent Republican John F. Herrity, for whom the Herrity Building in the Fairfax County Government Center complex is named. That pivotal election swung control of the board from a 5-to-4 Republican majority to a 7-to-2 Democratic majority.

The $850,000 campaign for chairman set a record at the time for being Northern Virginia’s most expensive local election. The Washington Post reported that the vote was seen “as a referendum on the county’s future and a popular endorsement of Moore’s campaign theme that transportation and development policies need to be balanced.” The population of Fairfax County, currently more than 1.1 million, had increased from 596,901 in 1980 to 704,757 in 1987.

Moore’s concern about overdevelopment stemmed from a childhood spent in suburban New York City where she watched buildings take over open spaces and add to pollution problems. While voters were initially drawn to her slow-growth approach, she was defeated for the Board chairmanship during a recession in 1991.

In 2002, Moore was honored for her county service when Fairfax County renamed Annandale’s Wakefield Park RECenter in her honor. Moore had said it was her involvement in the creation of Wakefield Park that spurred her interested in the slow-growth movement.