Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 NOVA Parks Reached new Heights

2014 has been a troubling year nationally, and internationally, but in Northern Virginia it has been a great year for NOVA Parks. Our system of destination parks throughout the Northern Virginia region has achieve so many wonderful things this year, that I would be challenged to list them all. So, rather than trying to be inclusive of everything, I will just highlight a few of the larger issues. Even that list is quite long:

  • We opened a new 300 acre park on the Potomac River with the dedication for White's Ford Regional Park.
  • We entered long term leases with both the City of Falls Church, and Fairfax County for a civil rights historic site called Tinner Hill. Now most of the development work has been done and we will be cutting a ribbon on this new park on January 10th.
  • We opened a W&OD - Meadowlark Connector Trail that makes a wonderful linkage between two of our best known parks.
  • We broke ground on the new Jean R. Packard Occoquan Center that will be built at Occoquan Regional Park.
  • Just last month we received 4 awards from the Virginia Recreation and Parks Society (VRPS). One for the top volunteer in the state: Brian Knapp, our Board Chairman; One for the top professional in the state: Blythe Russian, our Superintendent of Operations; One was an award for our marketing efforts for the Atrium at Meadowlark; And one was for MORE (Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts) the mountain bike group that has been critical to the development of the Fountainhead Mountain Bike Trail.
  • Our Board had their annual all day retreat at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park and enacted a number of forward thinking policies including changes to our compensation system that puts a strong focus on setting and achieving individual goals that tie to the larger organizational goals.
  • In addition to the individual performance goals for employees, all staff have been engaged in a comprehensive and on-going customer service initiative that was launch this year.
  • Laura Grape join our Board representing Fairfax County.
  • Several great event were held celebrating the Korean Bell Garden at Meadowlark.
  • We hosted a W&OD summit focused on trail safety, and are continuing to implement the numerous recommendations that came out of that effort.
  • We were able to engage more children in outdoors activities through a number of avenues including grants for school groups to go to Hemlock Overlook, and a significant expansion in all of our summer camp programs this year. The grants were donated by our Foundation.
  • Our two light shows have seen their best season ever due to new features, expanded marketing, and good winter weather.
  • Our fall festival at Temple Hall out performed previous years.
  • Our Fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2014 was our best on record.
  • Our retirement plan which struggled during the recession, as did most investments, has recovered well in 2014.
  • We adopted our new brand name "NOVA Parks."
  • And in the first days of 2015 we will sign an option on a property that will be another new park in the months and years ahead!
Over all 2014 has been a great year at NOVA Parks. In addition to over 11,000 acres of land, and great facilities, we are endowed with an excellent Board of Directors, and an amazing staff. This wonderful group make our region a better place to live each and every day.

I know many more good things will happen in 2015!

Young NOVA Parks fan enjoyed the day

Summer Camp Programs Expand

Dedication at White's Ford Regional Park
Falls Church City Council at Tinner Hill Signing

Staff Training
W&OD - Meadowlark Connector Trail Dedication

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Walk of Light is a huge hit!

Here is an amazing video of the Winter Walk of Lights at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna. This show is just spectacular. We have been doing this 1/2 mile walk through show for 3 years, and this year it has even more custom light displays.

Visit Fairfax put this video on their Facebook page in in about two weeks it had nearly 13,000 people watch it. For the last two years we have had about 30,000 people enjoy this show, and this year that number may be higher.

Because so many trees are wrapped and the displays all have a nature theme, it is really perfect in this garden setting. If you have not experienced it this year, you have not seen it!

Here is the site to get tickets for this stunning show:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top State Professional & Volunteer are with NOVA Parks

NOVA Parks (Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) is thrilled to announce that two members of its team took home the top awards given to individuals at the 2014 Virginia Recreation and Park Society Conference this week. Brian Knapp, the current NOVA Parks Chairman, won the Distinguished Volunteer Service Award, in recognition of an individual’s dedication and contributions to the parks and/or recreation field.  Blythe Russian, who serves as Operations Superintendent for NOVA Parks, won the Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of professionals who have displayed continuous outstanding service to the profession and community.

Brian Knapp has served on the City of Fairfax, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) since 1999. He spent most of these years as the Chairman of PRAB from 2002 to 2010 and 2013 to present. Mr. Knapp has also served on the Board of NOVA Parks since 2007, a 50-plus year old authority that is made up of six jurisdictions in Northern Virginia including the City of Fairfax. Since 2011, Mr. Knapp has served as the Chairman of NOVA Parks and led both agencies to excel in the delivery of comprehensive, quality and award winning parks and services.

In addition to the two local park agencies, Brian Knapp is also on the Board of the National Recreation and Parks Association.

“A heartfelt congratulations to Brian Knapp for receiving the Distinguished Volunteer Award from the Virginia Recreation and Park Society,” said Barbara Tulipane, president and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association. “In working with our Board of Directors, I get to witness Brian’s dedication and contributions to parks across the country on a regular basis and know this is a well-deserved recognition. I am also pleased to congratulate another NOVA Parks professional, Blythe Russian for receiving the Top Professional in Virginia Award. Earning both of these distinguished awards speaks volumes about the quality of the parks and professionals in northern Virginia.”

Blythe Russian has worked in the Parks and Recreation field for many years. As a professional, she has continuously displayed an amazing level and degree of dedication, commitment, energy, enthusiasm, support and involvement. Her positive attitude and leadership capabilities are remarkable, not only within her respective job roles, but through her involvement in VRPS.

Over the last 6 years, Blythe has worked with NOVA Parks, in which she serves as a Park Operations Superintendent. In this capacity, she is responsible for the oversight and supervision of 11 of the Park Authority’s 25 Regional Parks, consisting of approximately 5,000 acres of parkland. She manages and oversees the Park Managers at her respective parks, working closely with them to ensure park operations in all facets of the park are run effectively and efficiently.

“The excellence of the award winning projects was evident and we offer our congratulations to each winner for their outstanding contributions to the profession and their community,” said VRPS President Art Thatcher.

“It is a great honor to work with both Brian and Blythe on a regular basis. It is wonderful that the state association has recognized what many in our area already know - that Brian Knapp is an amazing leader on the governance side, and that Blythe Russian is an amazing leader on the professional staff side,” remarked Paul Gilbert, Executive Director of NOVA Parks. “It is because we have such a remarkable team that NOVA Parks has been able to grow our park system with seven new parks in the last seven years, and new programs and features that make our region a remarkable place to live,” continued Gilbert.
NOVA Parks also received two other VRPS awards. MORE (Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts) was selected for the Distinguished Private Sector Service Award for their work with NOVA Parks on the mountain bike trail at Fountainhead Regional ParkThe NOVA Parks marketing team also took home the Best Promotional Effort Award for its Atrium at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens wedding guide book.