Monday, December 11, 2006
This year the light show at Bull Run Regional Park is all new and attracting record crowds. The new show is the only all LED holiday light show in country. These LED lights are brighter than normal bulbs, last much longer and us only one tenth the electricity of the previous show!
It is an amazing experience driving through two and a half miles of light show in the comfort (and heat) of your car. To date, we has seen almost 12,000 families come through the show!
If you would like to see some video of the show you can use the following link to see when Holly Hunter from FOX 5 News reported from the light show: [the link has expired]
At the end of the light show, on Dec. 14th - 17th and Dec 20th - 24th, is the Winter Wonderland Holiday Village. There is an ice skating rink, tree sales, various vendors selling hot chocolate, food, arts and crafts, as well as carnival rides and a stage with local musician. On Saturday December 10th we named Gerry Connolly (Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors) as our honorary Mayor of the Holiday Village.
Those interested in visiting the light show may want to consider coming during the week when the crowds are less, and may want to visit WWW.NVRPA.ORG for the $2 off coupon.
Friday, December 08, 2006
The Shining Sumac bush on the right is tied for the largest specimen of its kind in the state. The Club Moss while not rare state-wide is somewhat rare in our region. Sometimes our parks are amoung the last natural areas left in urban landscapes. As such, they serve as important places for nature to thrive, and important places for people to go and get re-connected to the natural world.
While it is not well known, some of NVRPA's parkland provides habitat for species that are federally listed as threatened or endangers (the two plants pictured above are not in this category). Whether endangered or just rare to our region, protecting our biodiversity is an important part of our mission as a regional park agency.
For those wanting to learn more about local plant species, one of the best places to go is the Potomac Valley Collection at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna. This great Regional Park is a wonderful place to get acquainted with a wide variety of native plants, so the next time you are walking through the woods, you will see your surroundings with a whole new appreciation.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
One of the goals for all of our parks this year is to expand their natural and/or historic interpretation. This comes from our mission that calls on us to “foster an understanding of the relationship between people and their environment.”
This goal is straight forward part of our system like the nature center at Potomac Overlook, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, or our historic sites like the Carlyle House, Balls Bluff Battlefield, Temple Hall Historic Farm, or Aldie Mill. It is more of a challenge for the parks that have traditionally been more focused on the recreational part of our mission. A good example of how the recreational and educational portions of our mission can be married is the nature learning center in the pro shop at our golf course at Algonkian Regional Park. This display area has a wealth of information on the flora and fauna that golfers will likely see as they play this beautiful course along the Potomac River.
Another way we are building the bridge between our recreational and environmental elements of our mission is our efforts to get all three of our golf courses certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Programfor Golf Courses. This program sets high standards for golf courses in the following areas:
· Environmental Planning
· Wildlife and Habitat Management
· Chemical Use Reduction and Safety
· Water Conservation
· Water Quality Management
· Outreach and Education
For more information on this program see: http://www.auduboninternational.org/programs/acss/golf.htm
Friday, October 27, 2006
NVRPA operations are roughly 80% self funded. Because so little of our operating revenues come from tax dollars, we have become very entrepreneurial. Close to 30% of our operating revenues come from our two campgrounds and three golf courses.
To improve our services we identified new value added features/services appreciated by our customers. As a consequence, park usage and revenue improved significantly. We created a golf membership program encouraging frequent players to purchase season passes for unlimited play (priced to promote play during non-peak demand times) at NVRPA courses. Augmented by an aggressive marketing program, including ads in golfing publications and local newspapers, wide distribution of a new brochure and use of Virginia Tourism assets, play at all NVRPA golf courses dramatically improved. A 12.78 % increase in golf rounds over the previous year resulted.
Camping is another core service that experienced dramatic usage and financial improvement as a result of enhanced features. At our two campgrounds, we added rustic cabins, expanded hook-ups for recreational vehicles and wireless internet access. These new features allow the public to select from a wider range of camping experiences and comfort levels. The new amenities were marketed through print ads, the internet and camping directories. NVRPA developed and widely distributed captivating literature promoting family camping near the nation’s capital. An increase of 8,997 campers over the previous year and an income increase of $134,975 (18.46% annual increase) were realized. These are examples where innovation is transforming NVRPA, allowing us to respond to the public need for more recreational opportunities at an affordable price. NVRPA is pursuing many other managerial, partnership and technology initiatives, permitting the agency to live into its mission and affect a futuristic plan for obtaining more parkland in Northern Virginia.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Dear Editor of the Washington Post,
Your August 18th article about cycling on the W&OD Trail and other popular trails in our area pointed out how many more trail users there are today than in the past. In the most recent park needs survey in Fairfax County, 54% of households had used walking/biking trails in the last 12 months, and 64% of households expressed a need for such amenities in the future. With interest in trail use on the rise at the same time our population continues to grow in Northern Virginia, it is little wonder that so many trail users are finding their way to the W&OD. This is the premier multi-use recreational trail in our region, stretching 45 miles from Arlington to Purcellville. In many ways the W&OD is the community commons for Northern Virginia. It links our communities, creates opportunities for healthy recreation, and is a unifying thread through a very diverse region. It is great news that so many in our area are making healthy choices to increase their physical activity, spend time outside with family and friends, and seek clean alternatives to our congested roads. Expanding use of the W&OD and other trails in the region argue for more interconnected trails making non-motorized travel easier.
I appreciate the Post highlighting trail rules and etiquette. Following these simple guidelines will enhance the experience of all the users of the trail, from equestrians, walkers, skaters, and cyclists. It is also very important to note that the four accident related fatalities in the trail’s 31 year history were all the result of cyclist riding into cross streets without stopping at posted signs. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has installed stop ahead, and stop signs at every cross street, this fall we will be adding rumble strips and large lettering on the trail surface letting cyclists and other trail users know that they are approaching a cross street and need to stop and pay attention to road traffic. We are also working with the Virginia DOT to improve the safety of these crossings, with better signage, and grade separated crossings or traffic lights wherever feasible.
Even with the inherent risks of crossing streets, the Trail is a very safe place to recreate. I have cycled long stretches of the W&OD with my young daughter on the back of my bike and never felt the trail offered anything less than a family friendly place to recreate with beautiful scenery and interesting lessons in history.
For a complete list of rules and tips for playing it safe along the W&OD trail, I would encourage your readers to visit the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority website at http://www.nvrpa.org/.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Governor Kaine will be hosting a Natural Resources Leadership Summit this year to tackle some of the most challenging environmental issues of the Commonwealth. The Summit will deal with four issue areas:
- Land Conservation
- Outdoor Recreation, Fisheries & Wildlife Resources
- Water Quality and Water Resources
- Air Quality
The goals will be to both generate creative ideas for solving these challenges, and building a degree of consensus in the environmental community on what resources are needed to achieve these goals.
In 2003, Governor Warner held a similar Summit that resulted in a high degree of success. In 2003, there also was significant underfunding of state agencies with environmental responsibility like the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Department of Forestry and others. That issue has improved since 2003. One of the largest challenges today is land conservation.
The Chesapeake Bay 2000 agreement has a number of specific goals that the states of the Bay Region agreed to meet by 2010. One of these goals is to preserve 20% of the land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. With just three years to go, Virginia has some catching up to do. Governor Kaine has set a goal of conserving 400,000 acres between now and 2010. Achieving this goal will help assure that Virginia meets its Chesapeake Bay agreements.
The best way to advance all of the environmental concerns on the Governor's list is to acquire more parkland next to our streams, rivers and lakes. Forested buffers to bodies of water provide a natural filter for pollutants that would otherwise be washed into our waterways. Parkland next to waterways provides some of the best trail and boating opportunities for the public, as well as connected wildlife habitat. And mature forests are an excellent filter for our air quality.
These are not new ideas. In the 1960s, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority acquired over twenty miles of parkland along the north shore of the Bull Run/Occoquan Rivers. This parkland provides fantastic recreational opportunities for boating, hiking, camping and other activities, in addition to being an important natural filter to the Occoquan Reservoir, which is the drinking water source for 1.3 million people. The Regional Park Authority also owns 13 miles of parkland along the Potomac River, which protects our drinking water and provides numerous recreational opportunities.
There are other ways to achieve some of the environmental benefits that we need, but I know of no better solution than expanding public parkland to reach our goals in land conservation, water quality, outdoor recreation and habitat enhancement all at the same time. The challenge will be to find new ways of funding parkland expansion. We have not had a state park bond since 2002. Local park expansion is usually funded with local bonds that need to compete with other public needs like schools, public safety and other local government priorities. Are there other potential revenue sources that could be targeted to meet these goals? How do we best coordinate and prioritize state, regional and local efforts at parkland expansion to get the greatest environmental and recreational impact? Whatever the answer is to these and other questions, it is helpful to have the Governor bring a focus and priority to these issues.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
“We are focused on growing the park system in Northern Virginia,” stated NVRPA Chairman Bill Dickinson. “Just this year, we acquired historic Aldie Mill a 19th century gist mill in Loudoun County from the Virginia Outdoor Foundation. Our organization is involved in a number of negotiations regarding land gifts and bargain sales aimed at expanding our land holdings. This grant will help us to expand the 10,000-acre park system that NVRPA operates in Loudoun, Fairfax and Arlington Counties and the Cities of Falls Church, Fairfax and Alexandria.”
”Conserving our important historic sites and natural areas is vitally important to our quality of life,” remarked Delegate Vince Callahan, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We are fortunate to have a strong regional park system. I was pleased to help appropriate additional funds so the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority can continue to expand and serve the public,” continued Callahan.
Delegate Joe May, who also serves on the House Appropriations Committee added, “being able to support parks that will be used by millions of area residents over time, is one of the most rewarding parts of serving in the General Assembly. I was happy to help pass this appropriation for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.”
“Conserving land is a team sport. We are very grateful to have the partnership and support of the General Assembly to assist our effort to expand the parkland of our region,” said Paul Gilbert, Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
Monday, May 08, 2006
By the end of June, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority will be the new owners of the Aldie Mill, a 19th Century grist mill in western Loudoun County off of Rt. 50.
The mill was build in 1807-9. During the Civil War Aldie was known as a center for Confederate partisan ranger Col. John Singleton Mosby. At one point Mosby and his rangers captured two Union soldiers who had tried to hid in the flour bins of the Mill. Mosby wrote, "when we pulled them out there was nothing blue about them."
The famous writer Herman Melville wrote a poem about a scouting party that he went on to look for Mosby's Rangers in the Aldie area. Below are a few lines from this poem.
The Scout toward Aldie by Herman Melville
"They lived as in the Eerie Land-- The fire-flies showed with fairy gleam; And yet from pine-tops one might ken The Capitol dome--hazy--sublime-- A vision breaking on a dream: So strange it was that Mosby's men Should dare to prowl where the Dome was seen...
Rumor had come that a band was lodged In green retreats of hills that peer By Aldie (famed for the swordless charge). Much store they'd heaped of captured arms And, per adventure, pilfered cheer; For Mosby's lads oft hearts enlarge In revelry by some gorge's marge..."
The full text of this poem can be found on the following web site
Aldie Mill has been owned and operated by the Virginia Outdoor Foundation (VOF) since 1981. Under VOF's stewardship, the merchant mill was fully restored.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Last week I spent a day with one of our maintenance crews mowing a section of the W&OD Trail. It was a great experience, and one that I look forward to doing again. Everyone on that crew was a hard worker who took pride in their work. Often throughout the day the public would come up to a member of the crew and ask questions about the trail. I was impressed with how kind, helpful and knowledgeable everyone was in dealing with the public.
According to Larry Hunter, Maintenance Supervisor for the W&OD Trail, I did “OK for a rookie.” I only got the mower stuck once, and only ran into a transmission tower that jumped out in front of me once. (Good news: the two ton block of concrete that formed the base of the transmission tower was not damaged by my mower.)
With several million visitors per year, the W&OD Trail is almost always in use by thousands of people biking, walking, jogging and in-line skating. In many of the more urban areas the 100 foot wide trail property is a significant part of the community’s public green space, and is used in areas for picnicking, memorials, gardening, and many other uses not directly related to the 45 mile long trail that is the heart of the Washington and Old Dominion Regional Railroad Park (AKA W&OD Trail).
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
(Image: Joe Soles in front of Pohick Bay Pool Building. Joe and his wife Linda recently volunteered their time and skills to landscaped this and other areas of Pohick Bay Regional Park.)
Like many park agencies, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is only able to serve the public the way we do through the dedication, passion and work of many volunteers. If we did not have all of our volunteers that care so much for the parks, we would need to almost double our staff.
Our volunteers play many important roles in our parks, some volunteer to lead historic tours of the Carlyle House or Balls Bluff Battlefield, some donate their time to patrolling the W&OD trail, or to helping maintain and run our three golf courses, and others like Joe and Linda Soles see a need in one of our parks and volunteer their time and talents to address that need.
I know many agencies benefit from the good works of volunteers, but I think the Regional Park Authority is more fortunate than most in having a strong, dedicated and talented group of volunteers in all of our parks that make great contributions to the quality of our parks.
To all of those to donate their time to the public good, please know your work is highly valued and appreciated!!
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
"It was a century ago, at the 300th Anniversary of the Jamestown landing, that President Theodore Roosevelt articulated the approach we must take to managing our natural resources. On June 10, 1907, standing in Jamestown, President Roosevelt, America’s patron saint of conservation, said, “In utilizing and conserving the natural resources of the nation, the one characteristic more essential than any other is foresight.”
As we partner to preserve Virginia’s outdoors, there is no way to overstate the importance of foresight. Virginia is currently home to 7.5 million people. Between now and the end of my term in 2010, our population will grow 5%. It will increase by nearly 15% by the year 2020 and nearly 24% by the year 2030. By then, Virginia’s population will be 9.3 million people.
That increase in population is a driving force in Virginia’s rapid development. Of all the development that has occurred in the last 400 years, more than a quarter of it has taken place in the last 15 years. Being good stewards requires us to have the foresight to make responsible decisions today and take actions – actions which may not be available to future governors and future generations – to ensure that we preserve the natural, cultural and historic resources that serve as the foundations of Virginia’s identity.
Virginia’s identity is its land. From the shores of Chincoteague to the hills and valleys of Cumberland Gap, Virginia’s beauty is unmatched. But as quickly as our population is growing, our rate of development is growing even faster. If we continue as we have, Virginia will develop more land in the next 40 years than we have in the last 400 years. Without foresight, without a plan to focus and manage that growth in a balanced way, we will be failing ourselves and future generations.
As we partner to protect Virginia’s outdoors, we must put balance at the center of land use decisions. We must create an effective model that encourages redevelopment in cities and suburbs and discourages the wasteful and unnecessary consumption of land farther out from our population centers. And we must reward communities that adopt and use balanced growth policies with economic development assistance and other incentives...
In the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, Virginia has pledged to permanently protect 20% of the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2010. The other states that made the same promise – Pennsylvania and Maryland – have already met that goal. Virginia still has 358,000 acres to go. Getting there won’t be easy. In the last 5 years, we’ve protected an average of 54,000 acres per year statewide, counting both private and public efforts. We need to protect about 72,000 acres per year, just in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, in order to meet the goal.
It will be the goal of my administration to meet that obligation and surpass it. Since 1968, Virginia has preserved 330,000 acres of land. Most of that has been preserved in the past five years. The goal of my administration is for the state to preserve an additional 400,000 acres by the end of the decade.
To accomplish that, we rely heavily upon the open-space protection tools that have served Virginia well: Our land preservation tax credit and the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.
Virginia’s land preservation tax credit is among the most effective open-space protection tools in the nation. And I will protect it from political and meddlesome limitations. The tax credit is driving an increase in the number of voluntary donations of conservation easements and is a key part of meeting our Chesapeake Bay Agreement obligations.
Meeting those obligations and protecting open space throughout the rest of Virginia requires significant, reliable state investments in land conservation. In addition to protecting the tax credit, I pledge to provide more funding for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation and local “Purchase of Development Rights” programs than any governor before me. I believe that investment can be made by making open space preservation a priority in Virginia’s General Fund.
The result will be more conservation easements; more public lands, such as state parks; wildlife management areas, state forests and natural-area preserves, protecting opportunities to hunt and fish, and greater local preservation efforts that will help family farmers stay on their land instead of selling out to development.
With every passing day, land is becoming more expensive and scarcer. I will set and meet this preservation goal during my term – not just because it’s the right thing to do – I will do it because if I don’t, the opportunity to do it will not be there for future governors and future Virginians...
Three years ago, Governor Warner held Virginia’s first Natural Resources Leadership Summit, bringing together perspectives from all throughout Virginia to address solutions to critical issues facing Virginia’s outdoors.
The Warner administration made significant progress in two of the highest priorities identified at that summit: land and water.
It is time to convene another summit. It’s time to reassess what has worked and what hasn’t, what changes and new initiatives need to be made, and to be frank with ourselves. There is great value in a regular reassessment of our efforts to protect Virginia’s outdoors.
I will convene the Virginia Outdoors Summit in 2006. There, we will discuss ways to protect Virginia’s outdoors, conserve land, enhance water quality, and provide access to clean water for all Virginians.
“The conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our national life.” Those too are the words of President Theodore Roosevelt 100 years ago in Jamestown, Virginia.
The generations since have seen time and again just how right he was – and how right he was to call for foresight and conservation when it comes to using our natural resources. The need for those qualities is even greater now than they were a century ago.
Now is time to heed those words.
Now is time to be good stewards, to work together in partnership to protect Virginia’s outdoors. Now is time to fulfill our obligation to our children’s children.
Full text of this speach is available at:
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
RUBY NEWELL-LEGNER, CSP
9148 W.Vandeventor Dr. Littleton, CO 80128 Phone (303) 933-9291 Fax (303) 904-2966 E-Mail: Ruby@RubySpeaks.com www.RubySpeaks.com
Making Customer Satisfaction EverybodyÂs Business
Problem Solving -
Anticipate problems and solve them proactively before they happen
Plan goals around the future - figure out what you donÂt know so you can develop your skills
Put out fires in the infant stage
Focus on the "Big Picture" approach to handling problems when your supervisor is unavailable
When there is a crisis - deal with it calmly and demonstrate positive leadership
Bring two possible solutions and a recommendation with every problem or situation
Develop alternative approaches to problems and pinpoint solutions that appeal to everyone
Work smarter not harder - set priorities - plan your day and live it - stay focused
Become a ÂPower PlannerÂ and improve productivity by spending 10 minutes a day planning
Identify time-wasters and evaluate how to eliminate them
Determine specific routines that smooth out peak and slack periods and help you get more
control over your workday, every day
Predetermine intermediary deadlines to insure meeting deadlines and demands
Prioritize the workload - even when everything needs to be done right now
Handle multiple projects by prioritizing - Smooth out the workload
Say ÂyesÂ only when it is reasonable and realistic
Select the best response when others criticize your supervisor or your organization
Become a "buffer" between adversaries without being trapped in the middle
Communicate when you are ready for more responsibility
Present your problem solving ideas in a way that earns credibility and respect
Keep your supervisor informed without being a gossip or a tattle-tale
Relay constructive criticism without it being taken personally
Leave professional impressions throughout the organization
Deal with Office Politics and avoid being caught up in it
Be discrete in sharing information and handling confidential material
Customer Service -
Get to know your customers - Demonstrate an interest in their lives
Take every opportunity to call the customer by name
Acknowledge a customerÂs presence by the time they get within two feet
Interrupt any conversation if you are talking to a co-worker so the customer knows that they are
their first priority
Listen and acknowledge that you are listening to the customers
Double check orders for accuracy
If delivery is not going to be when you promised, call the customer immediately to inform them
Assist customers in learning about how a product or service works
Look for the opportunity to add value to each transaction
Take charge and demonstrate initiative without appearing overbearing and pushy
Identify difficult employees and redirect them with swiftness and ease
Prevent misunderstandings and increase efficiency by giving clear instructions and
having staff repeat back information to make sure that they understand it
This is the form I shared with Lisa
Skills that she
needed to develop
to move to the next
level in her career
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Over the last six months I have been going through a UVA seminar series on leadership skills with some of the other senior management at the Regional Park Authority. Paul McCray, Director of Operation, Todd Hafner, Director of Planning and Development, and Steve Bergstrom, Director of Finance and Budget have all been taking these seminars with me.
The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is very unique among park agencies in that we generate 80% of our operating funds through enterprise revenues. This makes us something of a hybrid organization, on one hand, we have a mission to serve the public, providing recreational and educational opportunities, as well as conserving natural and historic resources, and on the other hand we have the practical challenge of generating most of our operating revenue internally.
I find our entrepreneurial nature very exciting. We are challenged to be nimble and creative, and to always look for new opportunities that can help us achieve our mission and bring in the enterprise revenue that has made us one of the least taxpayer dependent park agencies in the nation. Participating in the leadership seminars is just one of the many way we are working to keep our organization creative and entrepreneurial.
The description of this series taught at the Falls Church office of UVA is as follows:
Leadership Seminar Series
Today's business environment remains as competitive as ever and challenges the most effective managers to become exceptional leaders. UVA continues its leadership series and provides managers with skills to navigate the challenges that lay ahead by concentrating on versatile leadership and discovering ways managers become exceptional leaders. By concentrating on versatile leadership techniques, managers will be able to tactically enhance their leadership skills in communicating with diverse audiences, maintaining highly effective teams, identifying and understanding leadership roles, and understanding the importance of shared leadership and team-decision making.Seminar Leader - Dave Minionis has extensive experience in professional and organizational effectiveness. He plays an integral role as a trusted business advisor to many clients to determine their specific needs, adapts training programs, interventions, and change efforts to fit their requirements. His experience in developing leadership competencies, management capabilities, and organizational and team effectiveness brings a unique perspective to many organizations. His expert teaching techniques are known for fostering an interactive, engaging, and fun learning environment.
Becoming a Versatile Leader
Leadership and Influence
Persuasively Presenting Your Ideas
Trail Blazing with Teams
Thursday, March 09, 2006
For the first time the Regional Park Authority gave performance awards for our many heros that make NVRPA such a great organization. The awardees were nominated by their peers, and selected by a cross functional team of employees. These great public servants demonstrated innovation, team work, dedication and great 'can do' attitudes.
In the category of Versatility, for generating outstanding golf course improvement ideas, working day or night whenever necessary, and fostering good morale and team work among his employees.
In the categories of Above-and-Beyond and Innovation, for initiating the water-trail concept along the Occoquan and Mason Neck properties, promoting the project and garnering widespread support, and obtaining a $100,000 project grant from the National Park Service.
In the category of Innovation, for obtaining a $50,000 grant from the
In the category of Customer Service, for his devotion and dedication to the rowing community at Sandy Run, his exceptional ability to coordinate and satisfy the needs of numerous park users and interest groups, and his work to significantly improve NVRPA’s relations with its park neighbors.
In the categories of Customer Service and Team Player, for unselfishly helping out wherever needed as the accounting department went through significant changes, her attention to detail leading to high marks on NVRPA’s annual audits, and her outstanding positive attitude.
In the categories of Above-and-Beyond and Programming, for sharing his knowledge and resources throughout all parks, working extra hours to conduct bluebell walks at Bull Run and canoe trips at
In the categories of Above-and-Beyond and Innovation, for outstanding marketing efforts that led to a record number of positive news articles published in the summer of 2005, developing a new annual report and park brochures, and working with a variety of staff to develop improved marketing strategies while fostering a strong team spirit.
In the categories of Above-and-Beyond and Team Player, for her outstanding efforts in helping lead NVRPA in its successful telecommunications lawsuit with Dominion Virginia Power, guiding the Park Authority through three complex State Corporation Commission proceedings concerning the possible placement of electric transmission lines on valuable parkland, and completing all her other varied duties with the utmost professionalism and dedication.
In the categories of Above-and-Beyond, Innovation and Team Player, for recognizing that rustic rental cabins would generate significant revenues and be a great service to the public, obtaining project funds by justifying the value of the cabins through the development of proposed capital and operating budgets, acquiring building permits, and helping manage the project to a successful completion.
In the categories of Above-and-Beyond, Cost Saving and Customer Service, for managing NVRPA’s most successful private fundraising operation, attracting more individual donations than any other park, creating a strong membership base, and implementing a major donor campaign.
Jill Vanden Heuvel
In the category of Cost Saving, for developing and implementing equipment operator training programs and preventative maintenance procedures that have resulted in a reduction in the number of accidents and equipment failures and lowered overall maintenance costs.
In the category of Customer Service, for his dedication to improving the Bull Run Shooting Center and making customer service and safety the top priorities, creating a successful Friends group to help support the shooting center, and maintaining an outstanding positive attitude.
Rodney Pryor – Most Valuable Player
For outstanding achievement in the categories of Above-and-Beyond, Innovation, Team Player and Versatility, and for being on call 24/7 most of the year and never hesitating to respond to needs for assistance, planning and managing a golf course membership program generating more than $300,000 in revenues, seeking out and implementing creative revenue generating ideas during tough financial times, and always striving to boost morale and maintain good spirits among his staff.
Friday, February 10, 2006
On display at Bull Run Regional Park
Teddy Roosevelt was our greatest conservation President. He created the National Park System, National Forests and the National Wildlife Refuge System. In all,
"In utilizing and conserving the natural resources of the Nation, the one characteristic more essential than any other is foresight.... The conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our national life."
Address to the National Editorial Association,
The Outlook, April 20, 1912
"Birds should be saved for utilitarian reasons; and, moreover, they should be saved because of reasons unconnected with dollars and cents. A grove of giant redwoods or sequoias should be kept just as we keep a great and beautiful cathedral. The extermination of the passenger-pigeon meant that mankind was just so much poorer .... And to lose the chance to see frigate-birds soaring in circles above the storm, or a file of pelicans winging their way homeward across the crimson afterglow of the sunset, or a myriad of terns flashing in the bright light of midday as they hover in a shifting maze above the beach-why, the loss is like the loss of a gzlilery of the masterpieces of the artists of old time."
A Book-Lover's Holidays in the Open (1916).
TR came to conservation first as a lover of the outdoors.
[Roosevelt game trophies are on loan from the Smithsonian Institute]
Monday, February 06, 2006
Dr. Ira Gabrielson (1889-1978), NVRPA’s first Chairman (1959-1975) and thereafter NVRPA Chairman Emeritus, was a man who in the often heard phrase coined by the environmentalist Rene Dubos “Think Globally, Act Locally” acted and thought both globally and locally. A world-renowned ornithologist, he became the first Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1939. During his tenure there was a four-fold expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System, establishment of the Patuxent Research Station, and passage of the Bald Eagle Protection and the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Acts. Upon retirement from Federal Service in 1946, he became the President of the Wildlife Management Institute (1946-1970). He also helped organize and became president of the World Wildlife Fund in the US and helped found the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. He frequently testified before Congress on a wide range of environmental issues including clean water, wildlife, endangered species and pesticide legislation and efforts to establish preserves to provide habitat for wildlife across the nation and around the world. As active as we was nationally and internationally, Dr. Gabrielson had a special passion for preserving large and environmentally important tracts of land in Northern Virginia as open space for protection of wildlife and the enjoyment of the public. Caring little about what public agency had jurisdiction over such lands, he was instrumental in the creation of the Fairfax County Park Authority (1950), and an advocate for Virginia State parks. In 1963, he was Vice Chair of Virginia Outdoor Recreation Study Commission which set forth an ambitious plan for State and regional parks in Virginia.
During Dr. Gabrielson’s period of leadership, by 1973 NVRPA’s land holdings grew to 6,430 acres including most of Bull Run Regional, Bull Run Marina, Fountainhead, Pohick Bay, Potomac Overlook, Occoquan, Upper Potomac properties and Carlyle Historic Park. About 53 % of the funds for land acquisitions came from the member jurisdictions and about 39 % from Federal and State sources.
He was posthumously named to the National Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Hall of Fame although in the many descriptions of his incredible life, scant attention is given to his work at the Virginia and regional level, land he remained passionate about to the end of his life.
One of his quotes perhaps most applicable to NVRPA in 2006 is:
“The conservation battle cannot be a short, sharp engagement, but must be grim, tenacious warfare—the sort that makes single gains and then consolidates these gains until renewed strength and opportunity makes another advance possible.”
The following is a May 9, 1960 speech Dr. Gabrielson delivered to the Virginia Citizens Planning Association in Richmond Virginia. Used by the special permission of the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington DC and is found in record unit 7319, box 13, folder 64.
Ira N. Gabrielson
(Address to the Virginia Citizens Planning Association,
Richmond, Virginia, May 9, 1960)
Within the past few years we have heard much about the subject of space, from politicians, scientists and the various media of the national press. In the public mind it has come to mean the great cosmic void that separates earth from its satellite and the planets. We associate it with multimillion-dollar gadgets that zoom out to infinity from places like Cape Canaveral or streak like meteors across the skies at night. The words “space engineer,” “spaceman” and “astronaut” have become as commonplace in the English language as “aviator” and “balloonist” were fifty years ago, and no more startling in their implication to the youngsters of today than the older terms were to me as a boy on an Iowa farm.
But in our search outward to the new frontiers of the Universe, let us not lose sight of the fact that there is another kind of space which concerns all of us intimately, and which will be of increasingly intimate concern to future generations of Americans. Regardless of the outcome of the great international space competition, man within the foreseeable future will remain an earth-based creature, even though he may, through his inventive and mechanical genius, succeed in sending a few of his representatives to the moon and beyond. The type of space of which I speak is living space and old-fashioned elbow room. In our modern civilization, with its noise, claptrap of mechanical gadgets, and burgeoning populations, it has become one of the most precious of commodities. If you don’t believe that it has economic as well as aesthetic and spiritual value, just take a look at the ads in the real estate section of the Sunday papers.
With the tremendous growth in population that has been apparent, especially in the coastal and piedmont regions of this state in the past two decades, the time has come when we must plan for space if we are going to have something more than standing room only in the near and immediate future.
To plan for space and to preserve natural areas may cost money, but it will be far less costly in the long run than attempting to create it at later dates by ripping out existing developments. This process is going on right now in Washington where much of the entire southwest section of the city is being pulled down and rebuilt on more spacious and modern lines, according to a definite plan. Personally, I feel that there is a real lesson there for all of us. When Pierre Charles L’Enfant drew up plans for the nation’s capital, he incorporated broad spacious avenues, the great swath of the Mall and a copious sprinkling of parks. Although modified in later years to some degree, this basic plan is the reason that Washington remains one of the really beautiful cities of the world more than a century and a half after it was laid out in the fields and woodlands around Georgetown. The development of southwest Washington, however, was outside the scope of the planners, at least in its execution. It simply grew, as economic and population problems spilled out of the parent city. It lacked the parks and broad well-lighted streets of the northwestern section of the city that had been built according to the original plan, and parts of it became one of the most deplorable slums in North America.
The result was that a few years ago when the planners finally did get around to southwest Washington, they could see only one solution—tear it all down and build it again from the ground up around the broad streets and open areas that should have been retained in the first place.
Sometimes as I travel through subdivision after subdivision of jerry-built suburban ramblers, split-level and Cape Cod cottages, which sprawl over landscapes unrelieved by parks or decent playgrounds, each group huddling like a group of identical chicks around a shopping center that serves as the mother hen, I cannot help but wonder if in these developments we may not be building the rural and urban slums of the future. Too many of them have no more planning than that given by the promoters themselves in their effort to crowd as many home sites into the area as the existing law will allow.
This need not necessarily be, but it will prevail without leadership in planning, and as long as the profit motive alone is permitted to dictate construction standards and the spacing of homes. In the vicinity of Washington several of the counties have become concerned with this problem and are now insisting through their zoning regulations and building permits that lots be larger, that certain areas be set aside as playgrounds and parks, and that the bulldozing of construction sites be confined to lands on which building will be constructed in the immediate future. These actions were caused by official concern over the influx of undesirable elements, and a consequent reduction in property values, as the original owners sold out and moved to the newer developments in their quest for space. If these earlier developments had been better planned in more spacious settings, the original owners would have had little incentive to move, some stability would have been provided for the community, and property values would have increased rather than declined; all of which demonstrates at least some of the hard-cash values of planning for space.
Housing developments, even those of relatively lost cost, can be attractive homes, and the proximity to a natural area can enhance both their commercial value and their appeal to sound citizens who can make a real and permanent contribution to community life. Certainly much of the juvenile delinquency that plagues public officials in urban and suburban America today can be traced directly to the lack of outlets for the release of youthful energies in the typical city and suburban environment.
For the suburban development the planners should strive to retain natural vegetation along all streams rather than permitting the construction of housing and commercial development to the water’s edge. Such areas are ideal for the creation of parks where youngsters, and older people too, can get their feet off concrete and asphalt and a little closer to nature. In the preservation of such areas through this means, there, again, are solid economic reasons even above those of attracting a better class of citizens. Traditionally, the bottomlands of rivers and streams have been considered inexpensive building sites; but permitting the construction of homes and factories in such areas can be an extremely expensive proposition in the long run. Because of poor drainage, homes and industrial plants built on low-lying areas outside the scope of existing sewage lines soon become sources of pollution, a development which either sacrifices the use of the stream for decent recreation, water supply, and aesthetic appeal or forces the community to extend sewage service to the source of contamination at a cost that is shared by other taxpayers. Secondly, such flood plain developments are wide open to damage from flooding and usually it is the taxpayer, through the municipality, county, or state, who must bail out the victims. Not infrequently a stream that has no history of flooding can run on a rampage after further development strips the cover from its banks. If zoning against construction on flood plains rather than development of flood plains had become traditional in this nation’s history. President Eisenhower would have less worries over the balancing of his budget, and the taxpayer’s load, which includes billions of dollars in flood control and flood relief projects, would be much lighter on the 15th of April.
A stream left with some semblance of natural vegetation along its banks and on its watershed and protected from pollution can become a valuable recreational asset to the community. One whose watershed is stripped bare, which is fouled with human and industrial wastes, and clogged with silt is the worst form of eyesore and often a menace to the health and safety of citizens who live within its immediate influence.
To this point, I have spoken only of urban and suburban problems; but much the same need prevails in rural areas. Although fewer people are directly involved, the regulation of development in rural areas often is more difficult than it is in cities and suburbs. Farmers traditionally and by nature are inclined to be independent in thought and action. Their general attitude is that no one is going to tell them how to run their affairs or their lands. Commendable though this sense of independence may be, it is a stumbling block in any attempt at regulating the actions of rural populations.
At the same time great strides have been made in checking soil erosion, in developing sound agricultural practices that produce more crops on available lands while enhancing the beauty and value of the farms. These steps, under the leadership of the various federal agencies, have been made, for the most part by the farmers themselves. In the past twenty years near miracles have been accomplished by the National Association of Soil Conservation Districts, the Soil Conservation Service, the Extension Service, and similar agencies in modernizing the agricultural practices of America by working with local groups. Farm ponds have been built, farms have been contoured and terraced, wildlife borders have been planted, flooding has been reduced, and the siltation of streams has been checked, all of which have direct public values as well as values to the individual farmers concerned. Beginning with the pilot watershed protection project on the East Fork of Falling River, there are now at least eight watersheds under unified local planning in Virginia. This program, to my way of thinking, represents rural planning at its highest level.
One of the greatest needs at the present time, in Virginia as well as in other states of the nation, is a well-rounded, sound plan for future multiple use of development of our major river basins, which should take into consideration all of the needs of all of the people within the foreseeable future. Agriculture, forestry, industry, residential development, water supply, both domestic and industrial, pollution control, and flood control, recreation, and the need for power all have a stake in such planning and all should be considered in any broad plan.
There has been much planning, to be sure, for the Potomac and for some of the larger rivers of Virginia, but most of those advanced to date lack coordination among the various resource uses that should be considered. Public power advocates pull one way sometimes with the backing of the Army Corps of Engineers toward high-level dams which would inundate thousands of acres of productive forest lands and some of the finest agricultural and recreational lands in the state and in neighboring states as well. Flood control advocates pull another way, and farmers and recreationalists have their own ideas on what a real program should be.
In my opinion the only sound approach to solving all of these problems is to be found in the example of the Miami Conservancy District of Ohio. Here the citizens themselves planned an overall valley development program, which included flood control as well as many features of additional public benefit—although primarily it was started to meet flood threats. The overall project has been developed successfully and operated with a minimum disturbance to the economic and recreational values of the valley. In fact, I think it has contributed substantially to both, and it has cost far less than the construction of the huge dams that would have been the alternative. It is my strong belief that we should develop a similar plan for the Potomac and other river valleys to provide the necessary water for municipal and domestic use, to provide flood control where it really is needed, and at the same time, to preserve to the maximum degree possible the scenic, historic, and outdoor recreational resources. Such a program, of course, would embody the enhancement or development of recreational opportunities and facilities to the fullest possible extent.
In starting to do this those of us in Virginia and neighboring states have one decided advantage over the citizens of Ohio when they initiated their project in the Miami River valley. We have ready at hand, in the Potomac Interstate Basin Committee, a group that operates through citizens’ committees and which already has gathered much data that could be used in developing such an overall program. I believe that this agency either could organize or spearhead the organization of further committees to develop a citizen-sponsored program. If it were well conceived, I am sure that there would be overwhelming support for it from the great majority, not only of the citizens who live in the valley itself but from the conservation organizations of the nation, who are vitally interested in what is done to this beautiful valley.
If progress of that kind can be achieved by the citizens of Ohio, there is no reason why similar progress cannot be made by the citizens of Virginia. Certainly we have as much know-how and as much operating capital. All that is needed is the will and the basic leadership.
But whatever plans are made, one of the fundamental needs of the people, and one which often is overlooked in many plans, is for recreation under natural surroundings, whether it be a quiet park in a city, where a harried office worker can get away momentarily from the frenetic bustle of modern living, to state and national parks and forests where he can really get next to nature. These things have great and often unappreciated values, which often outweigh those that can be measured in terms of dollars and cents. Those natural areas that are preserved today will draw future interest in the well-being of the citizens of Virginia.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
The battle of Balls Bluff near Leesburg took place earily in the Civil War. When some of the dead solders from this conflict floated down river to Washington, it was one of the first times many of the political elite of the time realized that this would not be a quick or easy war.
Today the Balls Bluff Battlefield on the banks of the Potomac River is owned by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. Every year reinactors come to this site and recreate some of the activities that likely took place at this time.
Strategic Planning Process
The board and staff of NVRPA have been engaged in a strategic planning process that has been going on for a number of months. Development of the new mission statement is perhaps the most important foundational step in this plan, since all of our programs and plans should be consistent with our mission. Other actions like adding transparency to our budget documents, working on land acquisitions, and setting a priority on energy conservation are all elements of an evolving plan for the future.
Below is a brief description of the key planning elements of this planning process:
- Mission Statement. This document adopted by the board in October is the foundational document that the rest of the plan should relate to.
- Vision for Park Programs. This is a one-day planning session with the management team (Assistant Park Manager and up). The purpose of this session is to develop programmatic and strategic ideas that can be used in the development of the final plan.
- Park Needs Assessment. Over the last three years
Arlington, Alexandriaand have all contracted park needs surveys to assess the public’s interest/need for various types of park features and programs. NVRPA is contracting a comparable survey of Loudoun, Falls Church and Fairfax City. This data will be analyzed and compared to the existing data from the other jurisdictions to create a park needs assessment for our whole region. Collectively our end product will have the backing of over 3,500 interviews throughout our region. This data will give NVRPA wonderful planning tool to help guild our capital and programmatic planning. Fairfax County
- Facilitated Strategic Planning Process. This will be the all important step, were the board works with a strategic planning facilitator to take the building blocks of the Mission Statement, Vision for Park Programs and Park Needs Assessment, and creates a well crafted plan for the next 3-5 years.
- Public Hearing/Comment. This step will give us direct input on how members of the public feel about the proposed plan.
- Plan Adoption. After the board has considered any public comments, the board should formally adopt the plan.
NVRPA Energy Conservation Policy
The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority shall lead by example in the field of energy conservation. We will help create a more sustainable society that is less dependent on non-renewable resources, and achieve long-term cost savings. Through energy conservation, we will be reducing the environmental and social impacts of burning fossil fuels, reducing global warming, habitat destruction, and air pollution.
NVRPA will track energy use by units of consumption for each operating location. This consumption will be compared to baseline consumption data from 2005.
For fiscal year 2007 (July 1, 2006 – June 30 2007), NVRPA will have a goal of reducing energy consumption by 5%.
To achieve these goals, NVRPA will examine high efficiency technologies, wherever practical. We will consider cradle-to-grave lifecycle costs of energy-dependent systems. We will total lifecycle costs and not just initial start up costs, when purchasing energy- dependent systems. We will strive to utilize a wide variety of technologies and practices, where practical, including: green building materials and methodologies, passive and active solar, geothermal HVAC, energy efficient lighting, energy efficient pumps and vehicles that use a variety of energy sources, including electric, hybrid, CNG, fuel cell and other technologies that become available, practical and cost effective.
To achieve maximum efficiency in our current systems, NVRPA will continue its policy of regular preventive maintenance of all its energy-dependent equipment and facilities. Energy conservation practices will be actively encouraged throughout the park system.
To track our progress in energy conservation, NVRPA will conduct an audit of its current energy consumption and will track energy consumption levels over time. We will seek to encourage others to reduce energy consumption by making available to the public periodic reports on our progress.
To achieve our energy conservation goals, NVRPA will implement conservation methods including the following:
Track energy consumption
Follow Energy Star recommended practices
Perform monthly HVAC maintenance
Reduce HVAC use when not needed
Maintain proper air pressure in vehicle tires
Use high efficiency lighting
Reduce mowed areas of parks
Use green building methods and materials
How NVRPA’s Energy Conservation Plans follow EPA Recommendations:
- By adopting a conservation policy, the NVRPA Board has made an organizational commitment to energy conservation.
- Assessing current performance is documented with baseline data on energy consumption for 2005.
- We have set a goal of reducing energy consumption by 5% in the first year, which is tangible and achievable.
- The building blocks of our action plan are contained in our policy. Each operating location will develop specific implementation plans for how these goals will be best achieved.
- Evaluation of progress will be achieved through a new energy consumption tracking system that will be implemented by the Budget & Finance Department.
- Recognition of Achievement will be done through our annual employee achievement awards.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
It is a great time to rent a cabin, and have a camping experience with the comforts of a heated cabin with real beds. It is just the right amount of roughing it for many.
The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is meeting a need for all weather camping by providing rustic cabins for our campgrounds at both Pohick Bay and Bull Run. Soon there will be six cabins at each one of these campgrounds.
In December I rented one of these cabins with my family, and my Sister’s family rented a cabin next to ours. We had a great time! These cabins offer all the fun of camping with a few extra creature comforts. These offer the perfect combination for an outdoors weekend in the winter or early spring. During the summer it will be nice, because it also is air-conditioned.
Today park staff from throughout our system went to Bull Run to help prepare the areas for the cabins. We had about twenty hearty souls cutting and chipping downed pine trees that needed to be cleaned up, and doing other work to get the campground ready for the new cabins.
For more information on the cabins, check the sites for both Pohick Bay can Bull Run Campgrounds at our web site: www.nvrpa.org