Thursday, July 31, 2008

Summer fun in the water

Whether you like to paddle on it or swim in it, summer is the time to hit the water. And with fuel prices what they are, more people are looking for fun close to home.

This summer we have seen a significant increase in swimmers at our five water parks:

Algonkian's Down Pour

Bull Run

Cameron Run's Great Waves

Pohick Bay's Pirate's Cove

Upton Hill

Great Waves at Cameron Run is our flagship water park with the only wave pool in the region, and some of the best water slides and other features you can find anywhere. Upton Hill was completely renovated last year and continues to be more popular than it has ever been. Pirate's Cove is a great success story with almost a 300% increase in usage this year.

If you are seeking a more natural environment, there is nothing better than boating. I was paddling this weekend at Fountainhead Region Park on the Occoquan Reservoir and the boat launch area was buzzing with activity. The REI Adventure School was taking out a group to learn how to kayak. Individuals and families were renting canoes, kayaks and jon boats as fast as they could and those with their own boats were launching and joining the fun on the water.

Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles put on a show in the sky, while the anglers were busy reeling in the fish.

Whether you want the excitement of going down a speed slide at a water park, or the peacefulness of gliding along the water and interacting with nature, now is the time to be one with the water, for summer will be over sooner than it should be.

Turning Point Dedication

The dedication of Turning Point Plaza at Occoquan Regional Park was a great success. This is the memorial to the Women's Suffrage Movement that we developed in partnership with the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area.

Over 100 people were in attendance. Senator George Barker and Delegate David Albo gave an official state commendation to both the League and the Regional Park Authority.

Lynne Garvey Hodge, who serves on the Fairfax History Commission did an amazing first person narrative of what it was like for those women who were arrested and put in prison near this site for protesting for the right to vote. She was in Character and period correct dress. Other living history reenactors contributed to make this event one to remember.

Now that the plaza has been dedicated and the interpretive signs are in place, the next step is the League will be fundraising to build a memorial brick wall to further the development of this important site.

For more information on how you can contribute to this project see the July 23 post on this blog.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Women Suffragist

Occoquan Workhouse 1917

91 years ago women seeking the right to vote were the first group to protest in front of the White House. Over the course of several months, hundreds of these women were arrested and put in prison. Many of them found themselves at the Occoquan Workhouse, a women's prison on the Fairfax County side of the Occoquan River. The exact site of the Workhouse is right on the edge of Rt. 123 by the entrance to the Fairfax Water treatment plant.

The news reports of these women's imprisonment were a key turning point in the effort to gain the right to vote. Because of these event, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote was passed. In order to highlight this important history the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has been working with the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area to create an area within Occoquan Regional Park called Turning Point Plaza that can help interpret this history.

This site has three interpretive panels. The first one covering the begining of the movement that started with Abigail Adam asking her husband to "remember the ladies" during the dafting of the constitution up to the early 20th Century. The center panel covers the turning point role that the Occoquan Workhouse played in gaining the right to vote. The third panel covers some of some of the key efforts since the 19th Amendment to achieve equality for women, and points to the future of this movement.

This Sunday, July 27, 2008 at the Occoquan River Festival, we will dedicate The Turning Point Plaza, as a memorial dedicated to the suffragists imprisoned at the Occoquan Workhouse. “The League of Women Voters was started by the suffragists who continue to be models of courage for us,” said Mary Grace Lintz, acting President of the Fairfax Area League of Women Voters.

The struggles of people to gain the right to vote and participate in society as equals are stories that need to be told and retold to every generation. The stories of the suffragists, the end of slavery, and civil rights are the events that helped define America as the democracy it is today.

Future plans of the Turning Point Plaza suffragist memorial include a long, brick wall with inserted plaques to commemorate the suffragist struggle for American women’s right to vote. If you would like to contribute to this fundraising effort, please visit the League of Women Voters’ website, Or you may send monetary donations to:

The League of Women Voters
4026 Hummer Rd., #214
Annandale, VA 22013-2403

For more information on the Women's Suffragist Movement I would suggest visiting the Sewall-Belmont House Museum in Washington D.C. or visiting their web site at :

Monday, July 21, 2008

No Child Left Inside

Last Child In the Woods by Richard Louv brought to national attention the stark facts about how today's children are spending much of their time indoor. This is contributing to the childhood obesity increase, possibly an increase in ADD, and a disconnect in our connection with nature.

The No Child Left Inside Coalition now has 500 member organizations including the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, and is pushing to get more nature based education into the standards of learning.

Every year NVRPA offers our Junior Naturalist Camp at Potomac Overlook to engage children in nature. Most children love beeing outside and exploring the natural world and giving children these opportunities that most of us grew up taking for granted can help develop problem solving, an appreciation for nature and a curiosity about natural sciences.

Last week I met with folks from the Virginia State Park System to discuss how we could partner to offer more programs and opportunities that would help engage childen in natural world. I think we are going to have some good programs evolve from these discussions.

For any of you who have not read Last Child in the woods yet I would highly recommend it. It is probably the most powerful force in environmental education today.

Last Child in the Woods:

No Child Left Inside Coalition:

No Child Left Inside Video on YouTube:

Saving Kids from 'Nature Deficit Disorder' - NPR Radio Interview with Richard Louv:

Virginia State Parks:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Environmentalist Joe Gartlan Dies

Virginia, and the whole Chesapeake Region was greatly enhanced by the wisdom and activism of the late State Senator Joe Gartlan. Joe passed away yesterday after a long and productive life of serving the public and making the world a better place.

I have had a number of mentors over he years and I count Joe Gartlan as one of them. I met Joe in the 1980's when he was the most senior member of the Northern Virginia General Assembly delegation. He served in the Virginia State Senate for 28 years. Around 2000 Joe joined the Board of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust when I was the President of that land conservation organization. In 2002 Joe served as one of my advisers for my Masters Degree project, which related to building environmental coalitions, something Joe was great at.

Joe was a giant in the environmental field. He Chaired the first multi-state commission on the Chesapeake Bay that led directly to the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement. Joe had the unique ability to be tenacious about the causes he was pushing, and at the same time so kind and gentlemanly that even his opponents liked and respected him.

Joe Gartlan lived a life of contribution. I feel very fortunate to have known him, and the Chesapeake Bay and all the life it supports including the millions of people that live in the region are better off because off Joe Gartlan. What a great way to have lived a life!

~ On the death of Senator Joseph V. Gartlan, Jr. ~

RICHMOND – Governor Timothy M. Kaine issued the following statement on the death of former Virginia State Senator Joseph V. Gartlan, Jr., who represented the 36th senatorial district from 1972 to 2000. He has also ordered the state’s flags flown at half staff to honor Senator Gartlan.

“Senator Gartlan was a true statesman. He wore his heart on his sleeve when it came to issues of social and economic justice,” said Governor Kaine. “He was a tireless and effective advocate for the environment, the mentally and physically disabled, and for abused and neglected children. He spearheaded efforts for funding natural resources and human service programs during his almost three decades of public service. His role was critical in galvanizing the regional efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

“He earned the respect of both parties for his intellect, integrity, and force of will. Over the years, he served as chairman of three Senate committees – Courts of Justice, Privileges and Elections, and Rehabilitation and Social Services. He also was a bold and active member of the Senate Finance committee, where he chaired the human services subcommittee.

“This is a sad day for Virginia, and our hearts are with Senator Gartlan’s family and many friends.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Global Dimming

Everyone has heard of global warming but much less known is global dimming.

Global dimming is the result of pollution in the atmosphere that reflects some of the suns rays, dimming and cooling the earth. The growth in global dimming and global warming have gone hand in hand since the dawn of the industrial revolution. And the effects of global dimming have masked the impact of global warming, so we have experience much less increase in world temperatures than we would have without the dimming.

Over the last 30 years we have been doing a better job of cleaning up the pollution in the atmosphere that causes the dimming. We banned CFCs in aerosols in the 1970s, and we have cleaned up smoke stack, and automotive emissions. This has been great for human health. The down side is with less global dimming, some experts are predicting much faster global warming in the coming years. If this turns out to be true we will need to accelerate our reduction of carbon emissions faster than we had planned... This will be one of the greatest challenges of the 21st Century.

For more information on global dimming check out the following links:

As one would expect, global climate change affects everything including parks. The National Park Conservation Association release a study on the affects of global warming on National Parks called Unnatural Disaster:

Last spring I led a session on reducing your agency's carbon footprint at the National Recreation and Park Association's Environmental Summit and asked the group what impact they had seen. Officials from parks all across the United States and Canada are seeing the effects of global climate change today.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Occoquan Water Trail League

If you want to get out and explore nature and hone your kayaking skills, Northern Virginia has some of the best kayaking places one could hope for. To help build the paddling community in our area, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority helped create the Occoquan Water-Trail League.

last week I had the opportunity to go on a late afternoon paddle to four other kayakers out of Pohick Bay Regional Park. All but one of the group were involved in the establishment of the Occoquan Water-Trail League (OWL). This is a friends group of paddlers the Regional Park Authority helped establish about a year ago.

The Regional Park Authority owns 25 miles of contiguous waterfront along the Bull Run/Occoquan Rivers from Bull Run Park in Centerville to the Occoquan Dam near the Town of Occoquan. We designated the water-trail as a 40 mile resource that continues on the down stream side of the dam to include Occoquan Regional Park, Mason Neck State Park and around the Mason Neck Peninsula to Pohick Bay Regional Park.

The Park Authority converted our annual car-top launch pass into an annual OWL membership with unlimited launch privileges at NVRPA sites and also at Mason Neck State Park. The goal with OWL is to create a cadre of dedicated paddlers that could help spread the news about these amazing resources and contribute to their protection through service project.

Lots of recreational boaters love nature and support parks, and one of the groups that is most environmentally focused are sea kayakers. The peacefulness of paddling along on the flat water, and the ability to really travel some distances in these long boats is great for nature watching.

Mason Neck State Park and the Prince William County Park Authority have been great partners in the establishment of this water trail.

If you would like to get more involved with the local kayaking scene here are some good links:

  • Occoquan Water-Trail League

  • Chesapeake Paddlers Association is a great group - The Pirate's of Algonkian group from CPA has regular paddles out of both Fountainhead and Algonkian Regional Parks.

  • American Canoe Association - Great resource for safety information
  • Woody's Kayak Trips is a great page from a local paddler. Woody has been very involved in the creation of OWL, his site has great information.
  • Kayaking in Virginia - Good resource page.
  • Paddling in Virginia - This site has reports on various paddling locations.

Get out there and have fun!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Hot Rods Rumble into Occoquan Regional Park

This last Sunday I participated in the first car show held at one of our parks. This show was the "Good Ol Days" car show sponsored by the Prince William Cruisers, a local hot rod club.

It was a great show with 160 hot rods, classics and customs. There was fun for the whole family. You could see and overhear folks with a few gray hairs reminiscing about when these cars were king. I also saw children who had only seen such wild rides with chrome superchargers and side pipes on toys. They were amazed to see that these were real cars.

These classic cars as as much a part of our culture's history as anything else, and it is great to see so many of these cool rides restored to better than new condition.

With the Occoquan hot rod show and a function of the Delmarva Cougar Club this spring at Bull Run Regional Park, NVRPA is becoming known as a great place to have a classic car show!

Some may question the amount of fuel these beasts consume, but in reality almost none of these cars are driven much, they are more rolling pieces of history. One car owner at this event who was asked about the cost of gas replied they he drove his hot rod less than 1,000 miles a year, or about 3 tanks of gas. Restoring and showing these beauties is more about sharing stories, showing craftsmanship, building community and having fun, than it is about rolling a lot of miles on these cars. One of my hobbies is the ongoing restoration of my 1967 Mercury Cougar. Like most classic cars, I take my Cougar to local cruise nights and shows and really do not roll a lot of miles on it. It is interesting that this 40 year old vehicle get about the same mileage as lots of new cars and trucks sold today. That says something about how the average mileage of new vehicles really has not gone up much other the last few decades.

The Club's proceeds from this show were donated to the Wounded Warrior Fund to assist wounded veterans.