Friday, January 18, 2008

Success has 1,000 fathers, one of them is Darrell Winslow

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 2009. We have already established a special committee that is working on planning the events to make this year special. In my opinion, NVRPA has long been a national leader in the field of parks; it pioneered the protection of drinking water sources by acquiring around forty miles of shore side parkland upstream of our region’s drinking water intake facilities, and in the process created amazing trail networks like the 17.5 mile Bull Run/Occoquan Trail, and areas of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. It developed one of our nation’s first and most successful rails-to-trail efforts with the W&OD Trail. And it became one of the most self sufficient park agencies in the nation, now generating over 80% of our operating revenues from enterprise operations. Our business like focus on offering appealing services to the public, won NVRPA national attention in the 2007 Better Government Competition hosted by the Pioneer Institute.

There is an old saying “success has a thousand fathers (and mothers).” Certainly there have been a long line of important leaders that have contributed to NVRPA’s success, Board Members like Walter Mess, Ira Gabrielson, and others, Executive Directors like Fred Packard, David Brown, and David Hobson, and hundreds of innovative, creative and highly professional staff with great accomplishments to their credit.

One individual who had a tremendous impact on NVRPA was Darrell Winslow. Darrell was hired in 1966 to lead the effort to build a system of new parks. He had already proven his effectiveness by building a system of parks in Tennessee. By 1976 he was the Executive Director, which is a position he held until his retirement in 1994.

Darrell Winslow is a man with an amazing positive “can do” spirit he bring to every task. Because of his love for parks and drive to get thing done, he is responsible for much of the regional park system we have today. A few of the accomplishments to his credit are:

  • Development of the W&OD Trail

  • Opening Upton Hill Regional Park

  • Development of the rowing facilities at Sandy Run

  • Working with Gardner Mean and Caroline Ware on the donation of the land that is Meadowlark Botanical Garden. After the donation of the land Mr. Winslow was a driving force behind the development and opening of he gardens.

  • Constructing Occoquan Regional Park.

  • Creation of the first and only giant wave pool in our area at Cameron Run Waterpark, as well as many other popular features.

  • Creation of the meeting center and riverside cottages at Algonkian Regional Park.

  • Negotiated the donation of Temple Hall Farm from the late A.V. Symington.

  • Acquired Balls Bluff Battlefield Park.

  • Acquired parkland on Beaver Dam and developed Brambleton Golf Course.

Darrell Winslow’s drive and energy has made an amazing and positive impact on our region. Mr. Winslow still lives in Northern Virginia, still keeps a close eye on the parks he loves so much, and is helping us in our planning for our 2009 celebrations.

Mr. Winslow is one of the “thousand fathers” of the NVRPA success story. But to my mind he is one that truly stands out as one of the principle architects of the park system we have today….An amazing accomplishment!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Trees are the Answer

How forests reduce global warming

One of the best tools available to park agencies to fight global warming is to plant trees and maintain forests.

The cause of global warming is too much carbon (CO2) in the air. Energy conservation is typically focused on reducing the output of carbon, but that is only half the answer. The other half of the solution is absorbing and storing the carbon that is taken out of the atmosphere. This process is called carbon sequestration. Carbon is naturally stored in the ground, in oceans and in plants. One of nature’s most effective tools for removing carbon from the air is trees and forests.

Many people do not realize that the trunk and branches of a tree are largely made from carbon that is pulled out of the air. The leaves of the tree do this through a process called photosynthesis. As a result, trees act as natural air filters, pulling carbon out of the air and releasing oxygen into the air. While different types of forest sequester or store carbon at different rates, on average, an acre of forest can absorb about two tons of carbon per year from the air.

All trees absorb carbon, but some do it better than others. Ideally, you want trees that grow fast in your climate without a lot of maintenance and have a relatively long life.

So, plant some trees and let us all breath easyer.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Trails & Natural Areas Lead in Public Opinion Poll

The following is a news release writen by Brian Bauer, about a recent park needs survey.

Trails And Natural Areas Lead The Public’s Park Priorities

FAIRFAX STATION (Jan. 4, 2008) More parkland. More open spaces. More historic sites. More natural areas.

The public has spoken and, according to a recent park needs survey, these are our region’s greatest needs. The survey, conducted by leading national park needs survey firm Leisure Vision/ETC Institute, polled 1,000 households in Northern Virginia. The answer, according to that survey, was quite clear: The number one interest of the public as it relates to parks is to acquire more parkland.

Eighty percent of the public were supportive of purchasing land to preserve open space, natural areas and historic sites. Nearly 67 percent of the public were interested in acquiring land for new athletic fields and recreation facilities. The difference between these two shows a clear bias towards passive, or natural parkland.

The survey has a 95 percent accuracy rating.

“As I look at the results of this poll, I am encouraged that the Regional Park Authority is playing a significant role in supplementing the outstanding service provided by local park systems. The Regional Parks focus on providing thousands of acres of natural areas, over 100 miles of trails, and preservation of some of our areas most significant historic sites. We also provide great recreational opportunities that draw the public from all over our area, we offer five pools/water parks, nature programs, and great water access,” observed Jim Mayer, NVRPA Chairman.

Almost as important as buying more natural or historic parkland was updating older parks and recreation facilities. Updating existing park features scored significantly higher than any of the options that included building new facilities.

“This result was counter intuitive in some ways. Many people would assume that the greatest pressure would be to build new facilities. As it turns out, the public is even more keenly interested in seeing their current park facilities maintained and updated to a high standard,” remarked Paul Gilbert, NVRPA Executive Director.

“For the last several years, the Regional Park Authority has made a big push to improve its park facilities with fresh paint and good preventive maintenance everywhere you look. I think it has a big impact when the public sees parks that are obviously well cared for,” commented Su Webb, NVRPA Board Member and Vice Chair.

The new park facilities that the public is most interested in also held some surprises with facilities like trails, nature centers and historic sites generating significantly more interest than the need to build new athletic fields.

“Trails are the number one most desired recreational facility. Over 75 percent of the public use trails on a regular basis. The reason we do not hear more about this is that trail users are generally not as organized and vocal as those involved in team sports,” remarked Gilbert.

According to the survey, members of the public noted the strongest support for the following park facilities (over 50% public support):
75.9% develop new walking and biking trials.
69.2% upgrade existing athletic fields.
65.1% support the development of indoor recreation & fitness facilities
62.3% purchase land to connect existing parks.
61.7% support the development of nature, history, and horticultural facilities.
57.1% develop a new teen center.
56.2% develop a new senior center.
54.1% develop new athletic fields

The survey broke down park interests by age and gender as well. Some highlights of this more specific look at park usage included the following:

Historic sites, while popular with the general public reporting a 58.2 percent interest, are particularly interesting to people from 55 to 64 years of age. In this age group, 68.2 percent enjoy visiting historic sites.

“Historic sites like Aldie Mill, Ball’s Bluff Battlefield and the Carlyle House are not only very popular with residents in our area, they also play a key role in the tourism economy that is key to Virginia,” added Webb.

Nature centers and natural areas were ranked as a high importance at over 63 percent usage by people from 35 – 64 years of age. Paved trails while popular with all age groups, ranked as almost 80 percent support by adults from 55 to 64 years of age. The longest paved trail in the region is the W&OD Trail, which stretches for 45 miles from Shirlington to Purcellville. Picnic shelters were of the most interest to people from 35 – 44 years of age, of whom 62.3 percent reported using such sites. Women were 10 percent more interested in picnic sites than men.

Outdoor pools and water parks were of high interest to those under 45 years of age, with 55.7 percent interest to those less than 35 years of age, and 60.3 percent interest to those from 35 to 44 years of age. NVRPA invested in a major renovation to the water park at Upton Hill Regional Park last year and witnessed a 50 percent increase in park usage. Another renovation is currently underway at the pool at Pohick Bay Regional Park, which will assume an all new pirate theme and be known as Pirate’s Cove at Pohick Bay.

“As a key part of this region, we’ve always felt that the needs of the public are a guiding force,” Gilbert added. “This survey confirms our mission, and helps forge our plans for the future.”
Benchmarks compareing this poll to other similar polls can be seen at: