Monday, November 02, 2015

The NOVA Parks Difference seen in national data

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has a powerful data base that can compare park systems nationwide. They just released their 2015 data, and it helps tell the tale of what a different and unique agency NOVA Parks is.

One of the most defining features is that NOVA Parks is largely self funded through enterprise operations. Where the average park system in America generates 27% of their operating revenues from enterprise activities, NOVA Parks is at nearly 85%.

Where the money comes from can also be seen in the chart below that has a line entitled "Total Tax Expenditure per Capita." This shows that NOVA Parks receives only $1.84 per person from our member jurisdictions to off-set our operating expenditures compared to the national average of over $56.
One of the factors to consider in these national averages is the NOVA Parks is a regional park system that is designed to supplement to local park systems in each one of our six jurisdictions. The local park systems focus on and do an excellent job with the community athletics. This frees NOVA Parks to focus on unique destination parks.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

PATC Trail Success

Every year I get a letter like this with the total house of volunteer time that the PATC has donated to maintaining the trails. It is backed up with several pages of data with date and areas of work that took place over the year. When you consider that in full time employment a person works about 2,000 hours a year, the gift of 1,731 hours of volunteer trail work is substantial!

And PATC is just one of a number of organizations that devote regular volunteer time to NOVA Parks. We track all of the volunteer hours that individuals, and groups donate. In total it is equivalent to a full time position at every one of our parks! So, it is not a stretch to say that we could not operate as a park agency if we did not have all the wonderful volunteers that we do.

So to all those that volunteer to help park agencies do their job, I say: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Customer Service Wins the Day!

Pirates Cove staff enjoy their well earned reward for selling the most mugs
Customer service wins the day! There is a huge difference in the experience you have in a place where the staff is disengaged, and a place where the staff is trained and focused on engaging the public and providing outstanding service.

For over a year NOVA Parks has been involved in an effort to set us apart from the pack in the area of customer service. Today we have an extensive and ongoing program on customer service. This summer all our front line seasonal staff had customers service training and continuous follow up. 

One unexpected area where we were able to measure our customer engagement was in the sales of commemorative mugs at our water parks. We noticed early in the season that one particularly friendly and engaging staff at Pirates Cove Water Park was selling a lot of commemorative mugs. Customers were being told about the great deal in beverage refills that they would get with the purchase of the mugs. The friendly demeanor and good information were resulting in high sales. So we created a system wide challenge.  With the reward of a Chipotle party for staff, each of our 5 water parks competed in July to see which one could sell the most commemorative mugs as a percent of total food sales. 

This friendly competition resulted in everyone refocusing on customer engagement and good service. The results were an additional 262 mugs over the 544 sold in June.  There were increases across the board. Pirates Cove again won the competition, but because all the water parks stepped up their game for the competition they were all energized. The end result for the public was that they had friendly helpful staff engaging with them in positive ways. We never expected that the sale of a mug could be a barometer of customer service, but it was one measure of that quality that is hard to measure. 

In a world where customer service is too often missing, our goal is to make all of our parks place of exceptional customer service. We want the public to look forward to interactions with our staff, and to have these interactions define consistently great experiences.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Parks lead on Sustainability

Inherit the Earth, or borrow it from our Children?

As park and recreation agencies, what is our role in solving the world’s environmental problems?  On one level, addressing issues like global climate change, or even the expansion of invasive plants, can seem far beyond the scope of any one agency, and it is.  

But on another level, showing leadership on environmental issues can have numerous benefits including:

Ø Contributing to the solution of these issues, even if it is small in scope
Ø Setting a good example of being good stewards of the natural resources we are entrusted with
Ø Positioning your agency, parks and programs as being an important local part of addressing these global issues

Big, hairy issues like the overuse of chemicals in our environment, or shifting weather patterns, can be overwhelming to many in our communities who would like to protect our environment but may not be sure where to start.  This is where park systems can play a pivotal role.  We have parks and programs that reach the people. We are a trusted voice on issues related to natural resources.  By taking a more proactive role in environmental protection, we can serve our communities better, and our world.  It is the old adage of “think globally, and act locally.”

Attached is a Sustainability Report that was recently published by NOVA Parks (Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority).  This report highlights the agency’s efforts over a number of years to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers, enhance riparian plantings, reduce their carbon footprint, and expand environmental education.

The report starts with the Native American saying, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”  The message that we need to take action if we want to pass on a world with a healthy environment to future generations runs throughout the document.  While this is a message we should all take to heart individually, as professionals in the parks and recreation field, we have the ability to set an important example and educate our communities about what they can do to be part of the solution. 

The link below is to the full Sustainability Report from NOVA Parks:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Korean Bell Garden

Last weekend we celebrated the third anniversary of the completion of the Korean Bell Garden at Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna Virginia. This continues to be a very successful partnership between the Korean-American Cultural Committee headed by Jeung Hwa Elmejjad-Yi, and NOVA Parks.

This amazing Korean Garden features unique structures hand built by special artists from Korea built in a traditional way that dates back many centuries. The large, 3 ton bell at the center of the garden was cast in Gyeonggi-do, and is a gift from that Provence of Korea.
The garden was funded with donations, including support from the Republic of Korea, and many very generous private donors.

Part of the agreement between NOVA Parks and the Korean-American Cultural Committee was for an endowment to support the long-term maintenance and upkeep of this international treasure. At the event last Saturday $20,000 towards the $200,000 endowment goal was donated.

The event was attended by over 300 people, featured many cultural displays and events, and was attended by may elected officials who have been supportive of these efforts.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

2015 Employee Achievement Awards

Most people sit through too many meetings. But there is one meeting each year that I can not get enough of. It is our annual "All-Staff Meeting" at NOVA Parks. This is the time when we review all the big projects and initiatives that we have completed or made progress on last year, and set our sights on the year ahead. Each department reports what they are doing. The depth and breadth of leadership at NOVA Parks is remarkable.

The meeting ends with the annual Employee Achievement Awards. The following people were nominated by their peers. Then a cross-functional team of employees reviewed the nominations and about half of them were deemed exceptional and beyond just doing a good job. This group is listed below.

Join me in congratulating these winner!

* all photos have from left to right: Brian Knapp (Board Member), Michael Nardolilli (Vice Chair), Stella Koch (Chair), Award Recipient, Paul Gilbert (Executive Director). 

Dan Iglhaut

 Dan Iglhaut
Dan Iglhaut has achieved recognition in the area of Above and Beyond.  Dan’s efforts to assist in the protection of historic railroad siding on the W&OD Trail were important on many levels.  When faced with public outcry after a developer began destroying this historic feature, Dan worked extensively with Arlington County to create a historic district that now protects the Benjamin Elliott Coal Trestle and will give NOVA Parks the opportunity to interpret the site and its significance.

Ann Marie Warren
Pohick Bay Regional Park
Anne Marie Warren has achieved recognition in the area of Above and Beyond.  Anne Marie plays a critical role as Pool Manager at Pirate’s Cove and has been called “The Glue” that holds the waterpark together.  Anne Marie’s assistance with the staff incentive program and the rollout of the new customer service program were instrumental in the programs successes at Pirate’s Cove Waterpark.
Ben Bilko

Ben Bilko
White’s Ford Regional Park
Ben Bilko has achieved recognition in the area of Team Player.  In addition to Ben’s duties at many other NOVA Parks locations, he was tasked with assisting in the preparations and final details for the opening of White’s Ford Regional Park.  Ben worked closely with the Planning and Development Department and assigned contractors to ensure the park was ready for the grand opening.  Tasks included assisting with the boat launch facilities, tree plantings and ordering and installation of park signage.  The opening of the park was a great success, and much of that can be contributed to the work of Ben.  
Dave Zickafoose

Dave Zickafoose
David Zickafoose has achieved recognition in the areas of Cost Savings and Above and Beyond.  With the implementation of a new point of sale system came the possibility that we would be required to replace a large portion of our existing hardware.  David took it upon himself to research and develop a solution that created compatibility between the new system and our existing hardware.  David’s hard work and knowledge saved NOVA Parks thousands in equipment upgrade costs.   
Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson
Cameron Run Regional Park
Sarah Johnson has achieved recognition in the area of Safety.  During her years at Great Waves Waterpark, Sarah has developed into a vital component of the NOVA Parks aquatics program.  Sarah’s mastery of the NASCO aquatics system and her ability to teach others has been important to the program’s success, not just a Great Waves but at all the NOVA Parks waterpark facilities.  Sarah has also assumed the lead role on the Aquatics commitment for the last several years using her knowledge and skills to impact the agency as a whole. 
John Houser

John Houser
Occoquan Regional Park
John Houser has achieved recognition in the areas of Above-and-Beyond and Team Player.  John has played a critical role in the development and delivery of our new agency-wide customer service program.  John’s participation in the interview process to select our program consultant, his assistance with the overall design of the program and its successful delivery to hundreds of NOVA Parks’ employees and volunteers is a big part of why moving into our second full year the program is flourishing.
Cindy Hudson

Cindy Hudson
Cindy Hudson has achieved recognition in the area of Innovation.  Cindy’s extensive work on the new employee pay table was tremendous and exceptionally time consuming.  This required extensive research and huge attention to detail to ensure it had the desired impact on how NOVA Parks employees are compensated.  The result of Cindy’s hard work is a system that will benefit all current and future employees for many years to come.
John Lewis & Tracy Gillespie

John Lewis
Temple Hall Farm Regional Park
John Lewis has achieved recognition in the area of Programming.  John played an integral role in the development of a first of its kind week-long Civil War camp that encompassed several of NOVA Parks’ historic sites.  Campers were able to experience the life of a Civil War soldier practicing marching and artillery drills and also what life was like on the home front.

Tracy Gillespie
Mt Zion Historic Park

Tracy Gillespie has achieved recognition in the area of Programming.  Tracy played an integral role in the development of a first of its kind week-long Civil War camp that encompassed several of NOVA Parks’ historic sites.  Campers were able to experience the life of a Civil War soldier practicing marching and artillery drills and also what life was like on the home front. 
Dale Hook

Dale Hook
Dale Hook has achieved recognition in the area of Customer Service.  Dale epitomizes GREAT customer service and this shows not only in how she treats NOVA Parks customers but also how she handles the internal customers she serves in her many roles at NOVA Parks Headquarters.  A great example of this is the assistance she provides to the marketing department with the assembly of new promotional features such as the cabin information binders for Pohick Campground, or assisting with copying and editing of other promotional materials.   Dale is quick to support whatever functions are needed; this was seen firsthand with Dale’s work on inputting customer data into the new agency-wide point of sale system.  This work took months to complete and was done with great care.
Sharon Swab

Sharon Swab
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
Sharon Swab has achieved recognition in the area of Customer Service.  Sharon’s passion for Meadowlark and NOVA Parks is contagious, and she shares that daily with visitors year round.  Whether it is providing a great experience at the Winter Walk of Lights or the gardens during the summer season, visitors will find a knowledgeable, enthusiastic ambassador of all things Meadowlark. 
Kelly Koster

Kelly Koster
Pohick Bay Regional Park
Kelly Koster has achieved recognition in the area of Above and Beyond.  With the NOVA Parks rebranding efforts in full swing, Kelly was asked to be the lead “on camera star” for a new promotional video that highlights our organization and will be used in a multitude of ways, including public broadcast.  Kelly handled this task with great ease and enthusiasm, and the product produced turned out to be some of the best promotional work we as an organization have done.

Brian Bauer

Brian Bauer
Brian Bauer has achieved recognition in the area of Innovation.  Brian’s work on the NOVA Parks rebranding efforts has been extraordinary.  Our agency at times has suffered from an identity crisis and now the new NOVA Parks brand that Brian has spearheaded has given us an identity which will assist greatly in letting the communities we serve know how unique and exceptional NOVA Parks truly is.
Doug Smith

Doug Smith
Bull Run Regional Park
Doug Smith has achieved recognition in the area of Above and Beyond.  Doug joined NOVA Parks first ever Civil War Camp as Corporal Smith, volunteering his time and talents to many eager campers.  Corporal Smith’s duties included standard military drilling, battle scenarios and the sharing of his extensive knowledge of the Civil War with the group.  Doug’s interactions with our campers were done with great patience, encouragement and good humor, with Doug even providing each camper with a souvenir minie ball to take home.

Vanessa Herndon

Vanessa Herndon
Carlyle House
Vanessa Herndon has achieved recognition is the area of Programming.  Vanessa especially shines in children’s programming where she is credited with the creation of the Carlyle Craft Day that, as a first time program, hosted more than 120 attendees.  Vanessa is also a large part of the overall success of the increasingly popular Camp Carlyle.  Thanks to Vanessa’s fresh eye and inventive approach, the stories of the Carlyle House live on through dynamic programs.

Jake Bumbrey
Jake Bumbrey has achieved recognition in the areas of Versatility and Responsiveness.  Jake’s work on the development of the Tinner Hill Historic Site was one that was extremely time sensitive and of great importance to the community.  The project had many complications with regard to construction and permitting issues that Jake was able to navigate through with great skill.  While doing this, he also worked closely with various interest groups and their expectations for the site.  As a result of Jake’s efforts, Tinner Hill Historic Site opened on time and with great accolades from the community.
Ben Goode

Ben Goode
Rust Sanctuary
Ben Goode has achieved recognition in the areas of Cost Savings and Above and Beyond.  Ben has been able to use his wide range of skills to improve the facilities at Rust Sanctuary. Ben has taken on the renovations of four rooms within the main house, including a redesign of the kitchen, installation of new flooring and extensive plaster work throughout the house.  Ben has also stepped in on a number of other projects, including the emergency repair of a well pump to ensure water was available for an afternoon wedding.  Because of efforts like this Rust is quickly becoming a popular destination for area brides.

Doranne Pittz

Doranne Pittz
Fountainhead Regional Park
Doranne Pittz has achieved recognition in the areas of Customer Service and Team Player.  Doranne pioneered the first ever Customer Service GREAT Board, setting the standard for other facilities to follow.  Doranne has also taken it upon herself to organize activities outside of work in an effort to build a true team atmosphere among all NOVA Parks employees.  Doranne is often one of the first to volunteer or take on additional duties as needed, making her the true definition of a Team Player.  
Brian Nolan

Brian Nolan
Brian Nolan has achieved recognition in the area of Versatility.  Brian, as the Special Projects Manager for the Planning and Development Department, is responsible for managing a multitude of complex projects and tasks.  Doing this well requires constant communication and updates to contractors, consultants, local permitting offices and NOVA Parks staff.  Brian accomplishes this with great skill and exceptional organization and results.
Jules Maloney

Jules Maloney
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
Jules Maloney has achieved recognition in the area of Versatility.  Jules is tasked with managing an emerging camp program in the summer months and then is asked to quickly transition into Light Show mode soon thereafter.  As the Camp Grow Leader, she provides exceptional experiences for all campers introducing the groups to new and exciting activities.  During Light Show times, she becomes an orchestrator of the multitude of details that go into making the light show a success.  Jules has managed both roles with tremendous enthusiasm and great results

Jenny Friedman

Jenny Friedman
Jenny Friedman has achieved recognition in the area of Innovation.  Jenny’s design efforts on The Atrium wedding venue booklet provided NOVA Parks’ most popular wedding venue a prestige piece that assists in painting the picture of The Atrium as a first class event venue to prospective clients.  This promotional piece also surpassed many great nominees from the state and received the award for “Best Promotional Effort” from the Virginia Recreation and Park Society at its annual conference.
Ted Riley, Jr.
 Ted Riley Jr.
Central Maintenance
Ted Riley Jr. has achieved recognition in the area Team Player.  Each day, Ted demonstrates the true meaning of being a Team Player with his willingness to take on projects outside of his normal job duties to achieve positive results.  This can often mean assisting with plumbing or carpentry projects that due to his assistance contribute greatly to the efficiency of our Central Maintenance operations.    

Jackie Querry

Jackie Querry
Rust Sanctuary
Jackie Querry has achieved recognition in the area of Customer Service.  Jackie exemplifies GREAT customer service by consistently assisting couples in the planning of their event with their budget and overall event expectations in mind.  This is especially helpful with the wedding ceremony itself, where Jackie often leads couples through the details they often have not yet thought about.  Jackie is consistently identified in online and other site reviews as a true event professional.  
Kim McCleskey

Kim McCleskey
Kim McCleskey has achieved recognition in the area of Responsiveness.  Each budget year, Kim works tirelessly to create a budget process that is efficient and easy to navigate for everyone involved.  Kim is always willing to meet with staff who request additional information or explanation about their particular piece of the budget.  Kim consistently seeks feedback on the overall process and has also taken the time to generate a survey that is given to staff to solicit suggestions about additional ways to improve the budget and process.  Kim’s hard work makes what could be a difficult process easier and one that values everyone’s input and ideas.
Brad Jackson

Brad Jackson
Pohick Bay Regional Park
Brad Jackson has achieved recognition in the areas of Safety and Responsiveness.  Brad, recognizing a significant need, took on the challenge of reorganizing the parking within Camp Wilson to address customer confusion about where to park and overall safety of the site.  Brad’s plan provided a safer environment by clearly defining parking locations, and in the process created a better overall camping experience for our NOVA Parks customers.

Debbie Patterson

Debbie Patterson
Debbie Patterson has achieved recognition in the area of Customer Service.  Debbie has quickly adjusted to the demands of the NOVA Parks budget process and has added to its success.  Debbie has displayed a willingness to assist with any questions or explanations but has also been a part of implementing new ways to get information out quickly to staff.  A great example of this was her assistance in providing completed budget pages at the conclusion of each budget meeting.  Doing this gave everyone an immediate snapshot of the changes and even provided a head start on the entry for the final document.  

Kathy Brooks
Kathy Brooks has achieved recognition in the areas of Versatility and Team Player.  Kathy has willingly taken on the challenge of becoming an expert in the development and implementation of our agency’s new point of sale system.  Kathy has worked exceptionally hard to develop a deep understanding of the systems capabilities and functions as they relate to the needs of NOVA Parks, and she has actively assumed the role of in-house trainer and go-to staff member for all questions related to the new system.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Expanding Parkland = Healthy Park System

There is no better indicator of a healthy park system, than one that is growing. Adding new public lands is vital to offset the affects of population growth. We need to be in the business of preserving the most important areas from both an ecological, and historical, perspective. And we need to be creating places where the public can go to enjoy the outdoors. 

With a new property that we are in the process of buying, NOVA Parks will have added over 1,000 acres of new parkland in 10 years. This includes about 15 separate land deals that have been completed over the last decade.

Below are our current 30 parks with equal over 11,200 acres, with another 150 under contract, and several other properties that we are exploring. The ones in bold are either new parks, or existing parks that we have added land to in the last 10 years.

1    1.       Aldie Mill
2.       Algonkian
3.       Ball’s Bluff
4.       Blue Ridge
5.       Brambleton
6.       Bull Run Marina
7.       Bull Run Regional Park
8.       Bull Run Shooting Center
9.       Cameron Run
10.   Carlyle House
11.   Fountainhead
12.   Gateway
13.   Gilberts Corner
14.   Hemlock
15.   Meadowlark
16.   Mt. Defiance Historic Park
17.   Mt. Zion Historic Park

18.   Occoquan
19.   Pohick Bay
20.   Potomac Overlook
21.   Red Rock Overlook
22.   Rust Sanctuary
23.   Sandy Run
24.   Seneca Regional Park
25.   Temple Hall Farm
26.   Tinner Hill Historic Site
27.   Upton Hill
28.   W&OD Trail
29.   Webb Sanctuary
30.   White’s Ford

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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Performance Goals = Agency Success!

NOVA Parks (Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) has just taken the next step in becoming a truly high performance agency. It is all about boiling the strategic goals of the organization down to individual duties and making specific people accountable to achieving measurable goals.

Since 2007 we have had strategic plans that outlined the transformative steps that would build a stronger more effective park agency. In 2012 we generated our current 5 year plan. These plans have measurable results, and are tracked every six months to see how we are progressing. The results have been amazing! Becoming a goal oriented organization has resulted in new parks being acquired and developed, new programs, innovative facilities, cutting edge marketing and communications, and more.

Setting goals and achieving them has the added benefit of build morale and a sense of great momentum within the organization. It is hard to quantify this “X factor” but it is significant!

This month we took this to the next level, and everyone had very specific and measurable goals set for their individual performance. We have 120 full time employees and they all have goals now. The 72 that are grade 13 and above have more detailed measurable goals that relate to our current Strategic Plan. These are goals that go far beyond just doing a ‘good job.’ They are specific and they require staff to step outside the day-to-day and work on those transformative steps.

Based on how our agency performs financially over the coming year, there may be a pool of funds for performance incentives. Based on how individuals achieve their performance goals they can be eligible to participate in the performance incentive program.

This is organizational development:
  • Start with a mission & vision 
  • Develop a Strategic Plan that identifies the transformational steps that will lead to a stronger organization to better service to the public
  • Develop individual goals based on the Strategic Goals and hold people actable to results
  •  Reward great performance
  • Build energy and momentum for the next round of goals setting – Start over again 
I could not be prouder of the remarkable group of professionals that help this agency continue to exceed all expectations. Real teamwork is built over years, and is the result of a history of achieving goals. Implementing this ambition program of developing meaningful goals for everyone was an enormous task. It was done both on time and with great quality! Congratulations to all those involved.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Jean Packard's great life of contribution

I was extremely honored to have had Jean Packard as a friend and mentor for over 20 years. Her reputation as a civic and environmental leader was towering. But in person she was always kind, and unassuming. While she had strong opinions and fought for what she thought was right, she never said anything bad about those that did not agree with her. She was really a remarkable person. She served on the Board of the NOVA Parks for 24 years, and gave of her time and leadership to many other good groups. She will be missed.

On October 21, 2014, Jean R. Packard passed away in her home in Fairfax at age 91.  Mrs. Packard was the first woman to be elected Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors from 1972 – 1976.  During her term as Chairman, she led the effort to down-zone the Occoquan Watershed resulting in the protection of the Occoquan Reservoir, which today is the drinking water source for over one million people.
Packard served as a civic leader on many boards and commissions including: President of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations, on the National Board for the Sierra Club, on the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board, Chairman of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust Board, and 24 years on the NOVA Parks (Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) Board. 
On September 27, 2014, NOVA Parks broke ground on a new building at Occoquan Regional Park that will be called the ‘Jean R Packard Occoquan Center.’  Mrs. Packard was present for this celebration.  At that event, Congressman Gerry Connolly, Chairman Sharon Bulova and many others spoke about the tremendous contributions Jean Packard has made to our community.  Congressman Connolly noted the tremendous impact that Mrs. Packard has had as a tireless civic advocate for the environment.
Sharon Bulova, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said yesterday, “Jean was a true trailblazer for women leaders in Fairfax County.  She was a forward-thinking, passionate steward of the County’s parks and water and natural resources, and will be sincerely missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing her.”
Some of Mrs. Packard’s colleagues on the NOVA Parks Board reflected on Jean with the following comments:
Brian Knapp, Chairman of NOVA Parks, from the City of Fairfax:
“For over twenty years, Jean served faithfully as a Director on the NOVA Parks Board, and she contributed to so many of our successes related to conservation and land preservation and protection of our environment here in Northern Virginia.  Her service and dedication to NOVA Parks will forever be treasured and remembered.”
Stella Koch, Vice Chairman of NOVA Parks, from Fairfax County:
“Jean has left an amazing legacy in Fairfax County, from her part in founding Nova Parks to her leadership as Chairman of the Board in Fairfax to her long standing involvement with the citizens associations throughout the County.  She will be remembered every day by the legacy that remains behind.”  
Laura Grape, NVRPA Board Member, from Fairfax County:
“Jean will always be remembered for embedding an environmental ethic into the story of Northern Virginia that will continue to enrich the region long into the future.”
Dan Kaseman, NOVA Parks Board Member, from Loudoun County:
“Jean taught me that the secret to a full and satisfying life is what we do for others.”
Paul Ferguson, NOVA Parks Board Member, from Arlington County:
“Jean Packard was one of our region’s great environmental leaders.  She will be remembered as a local government leader who was ahead of her time.  Jean will be missed but has provided an example that local leaders will continue to follow.”
Barry Buschow, NOVA Parks Board Member, from City of Falls Church:
“Many of us will never truly understand the extent or the impact Jean had on the quality of life in Northern Virginia.  From political to plain old elbow grease, Jean did it all to preserve and enrich our environment.  She will be missed but never forgotten.”
Paul Gilbert, NOVA Parks Executive Director:
“Jean was a mentor and friend to me and many others.  Her legacy is one of conservation of nature, as well as demonstrating political and civic engagement that was always civil and respectful.  All those who knew her were better because of that experience.”
Some of Jean Packard’s many awards and civic engagements include:
o    Metro Washington Council of Governments, Chairman
o    Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, Board Member
o    Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, Board Member
o    Sierra Club, National Board
o    Fairfax League of Women Voters, Board Member
o    Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, Chairman and Board Member
o    Fairfax County Community Appearance Alliance, Board Member
o    Fairfax County Citizen of the Year, Winner
o    Fairfax County Conservationist of the Year, Winner
o    Architecture Medal for Virginia Service, Winner
o    Sally Ormsby Environmental Stewardship Award, Winner
o    NVCT Lifetime Achievement Award, Winner
Mrs. Packard will be remembered at an event on Thursday, November 6, 2014, from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. at the Atrium at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna. The event is open to the public. The Atrium is located at 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna Virginia