Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Financial Transparency is Important

After the scandals of Enron and WorldCom Congress enacted Sarbanes Oxley, legislation that put a lot more focus on financial accountability for publicly traded corporations.

While Sarbanes Oxley does not directly apply to government agencies, financial accountability is every bit as important. The public should be able to know that publicly funded agencies are using their resources wisely. While it is not required, many agencies post their audited financial statements and budgets on-line so all can see. If you find an agency that does not do this, I would encourage you to ask for this level of transparency.

The idea of financial transparency is that nothing is hidden. If organizations are well run, there is no need to hide financial information.

We recently concluded our Fiscal Year 2010 audit, and our auditors met with both our Audit Committee and Board to report their findings. Once again we received an "unqualified" report, meaning that our books and financial controls were in good shape. In addition to our auditors saying we are running a tight ship, the Government Financial Officers Association has for a number of years awarded us with the "Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting," their highest award for financial reporting.

As great as it is to have such a good audit, a second challenge is to make financial information accessible and understandable to all. Six years ago our budget consisted of spreadsheet which while they were accurate, were not very easy to understand and use. We undertook a several year process of creating a budget that was easy to read, conveyed the strategic priorities of the organization, and could be used as a tool to record and track performance measures. The result of this process was great. Our budget today is a "go to" document for all kinds of organizational issues. If you want to know how many children went to the Carlyle House Historic Park as a part of school groups (1,182), or how many boat launches took place at Pohick Bay Regional Park (6,365), or what the goals and objectives of any park are, the budget is the place to find the information.

As a result of all the work we put into making our budget an understandable and useful document, we have also won the "Distinguished Budget Presentation" award from the Government Financial Officers Association for several years. This is their highest award for budgets. 

If you would like to see either our Audited Financial Statements or Budgets for the last several years they are available at the following link:

Financial transparency is important for society.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Largest All LED Lightshow in the Universe

The 2.5 mile drive through holiday light show at Bull Run Regional Park has been a mainstay of the Northern Virginia area for 12 years. Five years ago the show became all LED, and since that time we have added new LED light displays every year. This year there is a new element of the show that is animated to music.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest all LED light show in the UNIVERSE!!! A big claim for a big light show. And until we hear from another planets that they have a larger all LED show, we will stick to our claim.

LED lights use only a 10th of the electricity that normal incandescent bulbs use. So in addition to being the largest all LED show on earth, it is also good for the earth.

Around 100,000 people go through the show each year. And this year may be the biggest year ever. With a light snow on the ground the light show is more magical than ever.

This year the show is open until January 9th so it is not too late to pack up the family and take in the great holiday show.

For more information see:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kayak Rentals Continue to Soar

Kayak Rentals at Fountainhead Regional Park
 For five years in a row kayak rentals have increased dramatically at both Foutainhead Regional Park in Fairfax Station and Pohick Bay in Lorton Virginia. 2010 saw an increase of over 20%.

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has rented Kayaks at Pohick Bay Regional Park for almost 10 years, but it was just over 5 years ago they were introduced at Fountainhead, and just this last year that kayak rentals were introduced at Occoquan Regional Park.

Canoes have always been popular, but this popularity has been flat for many years. Today kayaks out-rent canoes by over two to one. We ramped up the kayak offerings a few years ago, because we saw statistics that kayaks were outselling canoes significantly. We realized if this is a measure of popularity of these boats we need to offer more of them at more locations.

For the 2011 summer season we will introduce the latest addition to paddling sports the stand-on-top board. This is similar to a surf board or sit-on-top kayak that one stands on and paddles with a single paddle with a long shaft. The stand-on-top paddle boards will start at Pohick Bay Regional Park.

I have been asked by a number of friends what kind of kayak they should buy, and while I always have free advice, one of my suggestions is always to rent some different boats and see how you like them. This will give the new kayaker some idea of what they should look for. Some of the great advantages of renting boats when you want them is that your cost is much lower, you do not need to find a place to store the boat when it is not in use, and you do not need all the roof rack attachments that go with transporting a boat. You just show up, get your gear and launch the boat that is already by the water's edge.

With snow on the ground as I write this, I thought it would warm you up to think about next summer and gliding along in the paddle craft of your choice at one of your favorite Regional Parks.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Parks = Tourism = Strong Economy

Tourism is big business and one of the best kinds of economic activity to strengthen an entire community. When people visit a place for leisure or business they stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and shop in local stores, all while seeing the sights of the area.

In Northern Virginia tourism contributed $7.597 Billion to the local economy in 2008! This is why tourism is Virginia's #2 industry (behind agriculture) and why Northern Virginia is one of the most important engines for tourism in the Commonwealth.

What makes people select an area for travel is mostly affected by what there is to do in that area...what are the attractions? And this is where parks come in. Particularly National, and Regional Parks which make up some of the most important historic sites, and unique features in the Northern Virginia region. The list of sites is extensive but a few examples include:
    Carlyle House
  • Mt.Vernon, home of George Washington and the biggest tourist magnet in Northern Virginia, while not technically a park, it functions much like one and has set a new standard for engaging the public in history.
  • Carlyle House in Alexandria is another fantastic colonial era mansion that saw George Washington as a frequent guest, and was the site where the French and Indian War was planned by General Braddock. This site is owned by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
  • Manassas Battlefield, site of two of the most important battle of the Civil War, this is a property of the National Park Service. This and other sites will be the focus of more attention as we remember the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War in 2011.
  • W&OD Trail
  • Balls Bluff Battlefield outside of Leesburg is another of the sites of early conflict during the Civil War. The political fall out of this battle had a lasting effect on the Union Army's command structure. This site is also owned by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
  •  Truly unique features like the 45 mile W&OD Trail also attract thousands of people from outside the area to come and ride what many consider the best rails-to-trails trail in the nation. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority developed this attraction during the 1970s and 1980s.
Developing new attractions continues. At Meadowlark Gardens, work is well underway creating a Korean Bell Garden that is unique in North America. This attraction should help attract tourist both nationally and internationally. Studies have found the some international tourist spend up to 10 times as much as domestic tourist.

Another project in development that will be a tourist attraction is the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial at Occoquan Regional Park. This will be the only real memorial to the sacrifices of the women that were imprisoned in 1917-18 for protesting in favor of the right to vote for women. This unique memorial will be an attraction for tourist from around the country.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jean R. Packard Wins Top Environmental Award

Jean R. Packard just won the Sally Ormsby Environmental Stewardship Award, presented to her by the Fairfax County Park Authority. This is the highest environmental award in Fairfax County. [Pictured above is Jean Packard receiving the award from Congressman Gerry Connolly, last years award winner.]

No one could be more deserving of this high honor than Jean Packard. She is a truly amazing person who has dedicated her life to improving the environment and quality of life in Northern Virginia.

Jean is on the Board of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. She is also Chair of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, the local land trust for Northern Virginia. She is also Chair for the Soil and Water Conservation District Board for the region. She has served on the National Board of Directors of the Sierra Club, the Interstate Commission of the Potomac River Basin, and the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations.

In the 1970s Jean served as Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and as a result of her leadership thousands of acres of land in the southern part of the County along the Bull Run and Occoquan Rivers were down zoned to protect one of the primary drinking water sources for the region.

On a national, regional and local level, and through governmental and non-profit organizations Jean has done, and continues to do amazing work. Jean Packard is a model of how to have a positive impact on your world. In her crusade to make a better world, wisdom, civility and persistence have been among her most effective tools.

Way to go Jean!!!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Korean Bell soon to be at Meadowlark Garden

By the spring the first phase of the Korean Bell Garden at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens will be complete. For several months artists from Korean were on site at Meadowlark building the beautiful pavilion in the photo above. This traditional structure was all made from hand carved wood, with the tiles shipped directly from Korea.

Jeung Hwa Elmejjad-Yi the President of the Korean American Cultural Committee just returned from another trip to Korea this week. On this trip she met with the Governor and other senior officials from Gyeonggi Province. This province of Korea is going to fund the bell that is being cast there. The first two images below are of the actual bell that is being made for Meadowlark Gardens, and the bottom one is of another bell that is of a similar size. This bell will feature images of Cardinals, Great Blue Herons, and Dogwoods, all natural images from Virginia.

The Republic of Korea (federal government) has already contributed to this project, as have numerous private donors. When complete this spring this will be the only Korean bell pavilion in a public garden in North America. Last spring volunteers helped plant 100 trees native to Korea around the site the pavilion stands today. A winding trail and large stones help create a scene very similar to what you find in the palaces of Korea.

This extremely exciting project has been made possible by the great donations of the Korean American Cultural Committee, and the amazing dedication and hard work of Jeung Hwa Elmejjad-Yi.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Korean Pavilion Complete

I have written a lot about the Korean Bell Garden at Meadowlark Gardens on this blog as it has moved through the stages of an agreement with the Korean American Cultural Committee to raise the funds for this garden, to the donation from the Republic of Korea, to various ceremonies, and finally to the construction phase where craftsmen from Korea built the pavilion on site much the way they would have done 1,000 years ago.

Well as you can see from these photos, it has come together in a fantastic way! The pavilion is nearly complete, and the bell is being cast in Korea. It will arrive by ship in the first few months of 2011, and by spring we should be ready to celebrate the completion of phase I. I say phase I because there are plans for further development of this area if funds allow.

I was at Meadowlark Gardens last Sunday, and you could see a stream of people making their way to see this great sight. It is a fascinating and beautiful garden to any one's eye. But to those from the Korean American community, it has much greater meaning to see a little of their old country in the midst of their new country.

It has been a great project and a great deal of the credit goes to Jeung-Hwa Elmejjad-Yi the President of KACC who have been at the center of all of these efforts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Like trails? thank a volunteer!

My last post was about hiking the entire Bull Run/Occoquan Trail. Today I got a memo from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club that helps to maintain this 18 mile trail. In the last year they have donated 1,565 hours to this task!! With a full time job being around 2,000 hours, you can see that the collective efforts of these volunteers equals 78% of a full time position. This is a great donation to the public good.

If you would like to read more about the work of this great club see there site at:

Friday, October 08, 2010

Bull Run/Occoquan Trail

Yesterday I hiked the 18 mile Bull Run/Occoquan Trail, or as many hikers know it the "blue trail." I had hiked most sections of this before, but this was my first through hike of it.

It is a truly amazing resource in the heart of Northern Virginia the end points are Fountainhead Regional Park and Bull Run Regional Park, with Bull Run Marina and Hemlock Regional Parks in the middle. At 18 miles it is perfect for a serious day hike, and a good day hike alternative to those that are thinking about a day hike on the Appalachian Trail. The AT is fantastic, but this is closer for many people and just as nice in many ways.

The trail runs along the river and in some areas you are in low areas next the bank and in other areas the trail is along high bluffs. The area around Hemlock Overlook Regional Park is perhaps the most beautiful with its stunning rock outcroppings.

Hiking this trail is literally walking in the footsteps of history. Between Fountainhead and Bull Run Marina is the point where the armies of Washington and Rochambeau crossed the Occoquan River on their way to Yorktown in 1781, to bring the Revolutionary War to an end. Rochambeau was the General in charge of the French troops that were critical to the success at Yorktown. For more information on this chapter in history see:

In this section of the trail we also saw many small groups of people walking briskly along the trail for a few miles to get their exercise.

Between Hemlock Overlook and Rt. 28 there is a fascinating Civil War artillery battery next to the trial that is a reminder that during the war between the states, this area was the outer defenses for Washington and an area that saw many battles and skirmishes. Many soldiers spent months camped along the banks of the Bull Run and Occoquan Rivers manning batteries and forts like the one next to the trial. At Rt. 28 is the site of the Battle of Blackburn's Ford that took place shortly before the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas).

There is also great wildlife to be seen along this nature trail, and a varied environment.

Today with sore feet and great memories, I would highly encourage anyone to start early in the morning and make a day of exporting the hidden natural and historic resources of the "blue trial."

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Giant Corn Maze and More

Fall is here and it is time to visit the largest (24 acre) corn maze in the greater Washington metropolitan area at Temple Hall Farm Regional Park outside of Leesburg VA. This years maze theme is 100 years in scouting, but as much fun as the maze is it is just a small part of the fun.

"Fort Cornumpkin" at Temple Hall features both corn Cob cannons and giant pumpkin blasters, that hurl pumpkins at targets in a field. Cow-train rides, wagon rides, play features and good food service are all part of the day of fun you and your family can have.

Pig races is another feature that is a big hit with the whole family. Something that should not be missed.

In the last year we have added huge bouncing pillows. These are like large built-in trampolines. Kids of all ages love the bouncing pillows. We also have new this year a paint ball shooting gallery.

The Temple Hall Corn MAiZE is a remarkable value for all day fun for the whole family. If you have not been to Temple Hall in the last year, you have not experience all that this fall festival has to offer. It runs every weekend from now until November 7th.

All of these great events are in the setting of a 200 year old farm with heritage breed animals and a interesting history.

For more information go to:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Good Economic News - Parks

Because the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority self funds over 80% of our operating expense (a remarkable deal for the tax payers) we are very focused on making our parks and programs appealing to the public.

Every four months we do some detailed analysis of exactly how we are doing compared with similar periods in previous years and compared with our current budget, a higher level of analysis than our monthly financials. Since our park offering change by the season, this methods works well for us.

We just finished this process for our key summer season May -August. And the bottom line was that we were up in our Enterprise Fund by 4% compared with the same time last year. Some of the notable differences between the summer of 2009 include:
  • Pools/Waterparks were up by 13.5%
  • Golf was down by 7%
  • Cabin rentals in our campgrounds were up by 10%
  • Overall campgrounds were down by 2% (but historically near the high water mark)
  • And most other areas up slightly including:
    • boat rentals
    • picnic pavilions
    • Event venues for weddings and receptions
    • Large outdoor festivals and concerts
    • And overall attendance at all of our parks from gardens to museums, nature centers, and natural areas.
Part of this success story has been our business like management of parks. We do not just assume the public will find our facilities and use them. Over the last few years we have put a concerted effort into upgrading and improving our facilities, and we have then worked to market what we have to offer. We are competing for peoples leisure time.

With much bad economic news on the headlines it is nice that people are still getting out and having fun in  parks, engaging with nature, getting exercise, and enjoying themselves. Good stuff!!

The other seasons:
Not too many years ago, most of the parks would be quite during the non-peak season, but now we are busy all year. Now that the pools have closed we put a lot of our attention to the fall activities at the Temple Hall Regional Farm Park near Leesburg. We host the annual Corn MAiZE, a 23 acre maze that features the theme of 100 years of Boy Scouts this year. In addition to the maze you can bounce on giant bouncing pillows (like a trampoline) shoot pumpkins from two pumpkin cannons, go for a hay ride, see farm animals, and have a great time with family and friends.

After the fall season our attention again shifts to the Bull Run Holiday Light Show (the largest all LED light show in the universe - as far as we know). With each of these different seasonal events we are able to efficiently pull in staff from other part of the park system to help make each of these a great experience for the public.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kayaking and Canoeing on Pohick Bay

The following is the first two paragraphs of a great blog post about Pohick Bay that appears on Lorton Patch blog. For the full story see:

"On the north side of the Mason Neck peninsula, the mouth of Pohick Creek enters into a body of water known as Pohick Bay. Adjacent to this bay is Accotink Bay, the mouth of Accotink Creek. These tidal estuaries—bays receiving fresh water from rivers and salt water from the ocean—are home to an amazing array of wildlife and flora, accessible for exploration in kayak and canoe.

Pohick Bay Regional Park offers rentals by the hour or day of Jon boats, pedal boats, sunfish sailboats, canoes, single kayaks and double kayaks. From the boat rental beach, paddlers may choose to stay in the open bay waters, or venture back into the wetland areas closer the mouth of the creeks. The kayaks and canoes are best for an up close and personal look at the diverse offering of flora and fauna throughout the park."

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Are You a Viking or a Farmer?

Below is an article I wrote that was published in Park & Recreation Magazine, September 2010.
Legendary Norsemen didn't conquer the known world by doing things the way they had always been done. Nor should park and recreation administrators.

The Park and Recreation field is undergoing great change. With state and local government budgets in great distress, a business as usual attitude is not a strategy for success. With many economists predicting that an end to the current recession will not come until sometime in 2013, what will parks and recreation look like at that point? Almost certainly, the agencies that survive and thrive will be those that chart new areas. These will be agencies with lean overhead and an entrepreneurial spirit. Agencies that show their value to the community in new and exciting ways and are less dependent on traditional sources of tax revenues will succeed. They will be Viking agencies.

From the late 8th into the 12th centuries, Vikings from Scandinavia were a dominant force in the world in and around Europe. They conquered vast areas and promoted trade. In the east, they set up the nation of Russia, and in the west they were the first Europeans to explore North America. Then, over time, they stopped exploring to become farmers, and the age of Vikings came to an end.

Most larger park agencies went through a Viking era, a period of time when leaders with foresight and a “can do” attitude created opportunities which resulted in rapidly expanding lands and operations. Over time, any organization can become so focused on managing what they have that they forget to grow.

Management is much like farming. You have a set of operations, and you tend to those like a farmer tending his fields. There is a great tendency to do the same thing every year. It seems to work and it becomes “how we always do things.” There is nothing wrong with being a competent manager or farmer, so long as external forces do not change too rapidly. But, when the way things have been done no longer addresses the changing circumstances, it is time to take to the “long boats” again.

While the farmer is focused on the management of a certain set of fields, the Viking is looking to the horizon for new opportunities. Successful Vikings were willing to take strategic risks and stretch themselves and their group to find the new opportunities. While they were seeking these new opportunities, they were not alone. Leif Ericson did not row to Newfoundland by himself, he had a team of Vikings willing to try new things and take risks together for a shared reward.

So, “Going Viking” is not a matter of becoming an individual maverick, but a process of adopting an organizational culture of growth and exploration. The stronger your team of Vikings, the more successful you will be at thriving in an era of change.

Thinking beyond your field is more than a catchy theme for this article. We need to think beyond the traditional park and recreation field to find new opportunities and achieve excellence. If you want to take the best of business principles and apply them to your world, you need to study the best in the business world. I would strongly suggest reading Harvard Business Review to get a handle on what the leaders in management, marketing and strategy are thinking about. For practical knowledge that will help the bottom line of your park agency, send your agency’s best and brightest to NRPA’s Revenue Development and Management School at Oglebay. This business school for park and recreation has been instilling entrepreneurism in park officials for over 45 years, with constantly updated course material.

Think about what Richard Louv and his book Last Child in the Woods did for outdoor/nature experiences. He changed spending time in nature from a nice thing to do for some, to a social imperative for all. And, as a result, nature programming and acquisition of open space have bloomed.

Think about new ways of positioning your park agency. If you are just considered the “fun” agency, you will be the first to be cut in economic hard times. But, if your facilities and programs are a big reason why tourists spend money in your community, or businesses locate there, you are no longer discretionary but have become essential.

These are examples of thinking beyond your field, looking for new markets and new worlds to explore. You can think like a Viking in looking for new revenue sources, new programming opportunities, new financing options and new marketing methods. And, to thrive in an unsettled world, you need a strong team of Vikings to row that long boat to new opportunities.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Final beam goes into Korean Pavilion

On Saturday, the master craftsmen from Korea that have been carving each piece of wood to make the traditional pavilion that will house the large bell at Meadowlark Botanical Garden finished their work. The final step for the carpenters was to hand paint in Korean "Bell of Peace and Harmony" and the date, and put the top beam in place.

Master Carpenter Lee did the honors of painting the bell's name on the beam, before it was lifted by cloth ropes up to the top and set in place. Except for the concrete foundation, the entire pavilion was constructed by hand with each piece of wood being carved from raw lumber. It all fit together tongue and groove without any nails or screws.

The bell is being cast in Korea by another master artist, and will be shipped here in early 2011.

When complete this unique feature of Meadowlark Gardens will be a tourist attraction, a symbol of the partnership between our two countries, and a cultural hub for the Korean American community in the Washington Metropolitan area.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

90 Years Ago Women Won the Right to Vote

It is hard to believe that is was less than 100 years ago that women got the right to vote after a very long effort.

At Occoquan Regional Park we have Turning Point Plaza with interpretive signs that tell the story of the women who were imprisoned near there for seeking voting rights in 1917-1919, prior to the 19th Amendment being passed in 1920. In addition to the markers next to the historic brick kiln, the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Committee is working to raise funds for a much grander monument. We have a great design from architect Bob Beach, and the plan is to create this memorial before the 100th Anniversary.

A week ago, we had a nice ceremony at the plaza to mark the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, and at this event we also put a time capsule  in the ground with information on the plans for future generations to find some day.
Time capsule

Girl Scouts fill in the hole

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Virginia Wine Festival

If you like fine wine, great music and fun with your friends you need to go to Bull Run Regional Park for the Virginia Wine Festival on Saturday September 18th.

The Virginia Wine Festival is the oldest wine festival on the East Coast. Each year, the festival features 50 of VA\'s best wineries, craft exhibitors, seminars, and incredible music. At the Virginia Wine Festival you can celebrate and taste from more than 300 Virginia Vintages plus attend seminars on tasting, pairing, and winemaking, all at a beautiful outdoor venue while shopping and listening to authentic sounds of stellar regional performers. Performers: Over the Rhine, Robert Jospe Quartet w/ John D\'earth, Juggle This! & Stiltwalker and more!

The Special Event Center at Bull Run Regional Park is a great location of concerts, and festivals, and hosts some of the premiere events in Northern Virginia.

Cost: $25: Advance Tickets, $30: Tickets at the Gate

For more information go to or call 1-888-VA-FESTS
Great Location Right Off of I-66

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Del Keam meets with Master Craftsmen

Delegate Keam with Master Craftsmen
Yesterday Delegate Mark Keam (35th Virginia House District) visited Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna Virginia where the Korean Bell Garden is being create. Delegate Keam saw the site of the garden where the foundation is already in place for the traditional pavilion that will hold the large cast iron bell in the center of a uniquely Korean garden.

He also met with the special carpenter/artists that have come from Korea to build this pavilion in the same way traditional structures have been built there for thousands of years. These craftsmen have shaped every piece of what will be the pavilion from raw wood. It will all fit together without the assistance of a single nail. Beautiful carvings of birds and flowers have all been formed by hand, and it will be topped with special tiles shipped in from Korea.

The pavilion will be complete sometime in late September and the bell should be on site in early 2011. Already over 100 Korean trees have been planted and stone brought in to create an area that looks like the gardens seen in ancient Korean palaces.

This project is being funded by the Korean American Cultural Committee, with private donations and financial support from the Republic of Korea.

When  complete this site will be a tourist destination for the Northern Virginia area. Already tourism is the #2 industry in Virginia. There are direct flights everyday from Dulles Airport to Korea, this bell garden will provide an important draw to encourage people to come to Meadowlark Garden and see this unique site, and will certainly help the business community in the surrounding area.  There are two similar bells on the West Coast, but this will be the first Korean Bell Garden in North America.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Working with Temple Hall/White's Ford Neighbors

Last week we had a meeting with a number of the neighbors that had opposed the establishment of White's Ford Regional Park. It was a great opportunity to update them on how we are progressing on a wide range of issues, from getting a contractor to help with the various traffic studies we agreed to, to starting work fixing up the Col. White house, and doing more archaeological work on the site.

This park will not open to the public until sometime in 2011. But for those that were involved in the permit process it was a good time to get together and start laying out a productive course for the future.

We met in the main barn with free range chickens wandering though as we talked. We also reviewed the Endowment Plan for Temple Hall Farm and talked about how the entrance on Rt. 15 could be looked at if further charitable donations provided the development funding. I believe that while not everyone agreed on all issues, most people felt better about the plans and our partnership after the meeting than before.

Relationships are built through small positive steps, that over time create mutual trust, respect and appreciation. This I hope is the path we are on.

I would like to thank Supervisor Sally Kurtz, who facilitated this meeting and through the permit process sought to strike a balance.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Holly Morris Reports Live from Great Waves Waterpark

Today Holly Morris from Fox 5 Morning Show did another live broadcast from a Regional Park. This morning she was at Great Waves Waterpark in Alexandria. She did two segments on the giant wave pool, one on min-golf and some on the batting cages. To see the video footage see:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Strategic Plan Success

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die."- Daniel Burnham

Daniel Burnham was an architect and urban planner in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries who built great buildings in Chicago, but also left us with this great quote on planning.

Much of the business literature quote a number that 90% of strategic plans are not successfully implemented. Much of that is because it is easy to have a big disconnect between the plan and the realities of what the organization is doing. 

At the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority we adopted our first real strategic plan at the end of 2007. This five year plan is now at the midway point, and the good news is that we have made tremendous progress in every area we set out to. 

This success is one that the whole organization shares, in that making this plan a reality has taken the actions of hundreds of people all moving in the same direction. I am tremendously proud of all the staff, Board Members, and volunteers that have played a role in this implementation. 

The details on this implementation can be seen at:

While there is, and always will be much more work to be done, it is great to see that the goal we set are taking place and as a result the organization is able to serve the public in more ways than ever before.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rewarding Excellence

One of the most important events of the year at the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is when we recognize some of the great achievements that have been accomplished by our amazing team of professionals. The employee achievement award winners are all nominated by their peer and then selected by a cross functional committee that changes every year. This year we presented these award in the spring of 2010.

In the photos below the award recipient is the second from the left. I am on the left, and to the right of the awardee is Su Webb, NVRPA Chair, and Brian Knapp, NVRPA Vice Chair.

Heather Dunn has achieved recognition in the area of Programming. Heather developed new Scout programs and school tours attracting many younger visitors to the Carlyle House. She stepped into the role of Curator of Education in 2009 and seamlessly took over the volunteer docent program. Heather has also developed new materials for a number of existing public programs offered at the site.

Eric Ferguson has achieved recognition in the area of Above and Beyond. The last year was a challenging one for all of our operations and Eric had more than his share by transitioning from the busy season at Cameron Run to the busy season at Bull Run - just as the Festival of Lights was gearing up. Eric worked at both parks simultaneously, turning the Cameron operation over to a new manager while learning his new duties. When the snows hit, Eric stayed in his park the whole time plowing, shoveling and getting back open to the public as soon as possible. He also volunteered to help at other parks throughout the year including the Carlyle House and Algonkian.

Paul Hecky has achieved recognition in the area of Innovation. Paul brought a wealth of knowledge and new ideas to Brambleton which have resulted in improved playing conditions, new ways of caring for the course and new amenities that improve the golfer’s overall experience.

Ashley Kiser has achieved recognition in the area of Above-and-Beyond. Ashley quickly learned the installation procedures for the light show displays and became a leader for both the installation and tear-down processes. Once the lights were installed, he worked as the light technician after his normal park maintenance duties were through each day and provided the most trouble free Festival of Lights we’ve had so far. Ashley’s duties as light technician took on a whole new meaning after the heavy snows damaged many displays and much of the pathway lighting, which Ashley repaired in time for the show’s reopening.

James Short has achieved recognition in the area of Safety. Over the last year, James has improved the pre-season training and testing for coaches who use the Occoquan Reservoir for scholastic rowing. He has improved the procedures for monitoring of water and weather conditions and has worked with other rowing facilities to pass along safety protocols he has developed. James has even been able to reduce the instances of speeding by students and parents along the road leading Sandy Run Regional Park reducing the impact of the facility on the surrounding community.

Bryan McFerren has achieved recognition in the area of Cost Savings. The golf course at Algonkian has always been challenging to maintain due to the wet and flat conditions which exist. To deal with this, Bryan converted the rye grass fairways at Algonkian to Bermuda grass which needs less maintenance, water, fertilizer, fungicide and ultimately, less cost while providing the benefits and playability of a warm season grass.

Rich Bailey has achieved recognition in the area of Programming. Rich has displayed great creativity and skill in running the Junior Naturalist and Explorers day camps at Potomac Overlook Regional Park. All spots book each year at these popular camps which feature a varied and ever-changing set of indoor and outdoor activities, both within and outside the park. The camps enjoy many repeat campers each year and some even return as “Counselors-in Training.”

Becky Reynaldo, Azeana Roehn, Diana Lancaster, Kim LaPorta
The Finance Department has achieved recognition in the area of Above and Beyond. For the first time ever, our external auditors were unable to document any significant flaws or errors in the NVRPA financial records for 2009. This reflects the diligence these staff members have shown in tracking down inaccuracies in our finances and looking for ways to avoid mistakes made in past years. A fault free rating from auditors is a rare thing for any agency and ours’ is due to the hard work of these staff members.

Kevin Ruuska has achieved recognition in the area of Above and Beyond. Kevin is always taking on tasks not in his job description and does it with enthusiasm and a smile. As Chef at the Atrium, he can often be seen outside the kitchen helping clean the facility, setting up the rooms for upcoming events and helping with whatever tasks need to be accomplished.
Adam Melton has achieved recognition in the area of Versatility for his service to staff and NVRPA. Adam has taken on many new responsibilities in the IT department one being the task of setting up new types of equipment. Adam has also worked closely with the Operations and Marketing staff to provide technical support and insight on website development plans.

Charlie Anderson has achieved recognition in the area of Above and Beyond. Charlie volunteered to drive the NVRPA float in the George Washington’s Birthday parade in Alexandria and the proceeded to do the same each time we participated in a parade. In each case he gave up a holiday and his skill at maneuvering the truck and trailer through typically crowded street conditions was exceptional.

Casey Pittrizzi has achieved recognition in the area of Programming. Casey’s work as our Roving Naturalist has brought nature interpretation to facilities and park visitors who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to learn about the wonders of our environment. Casey scheduled and marketed the more than 99 programs he hosted through out the season. Casey obtained his own materials and delivered quality programs to almost 5000 people throughout the spring, summer and fall. He even brought his programs to the Holiday Village at the Festival of Lights adding a fourth season to his schedule.

Tony Blevins has achieved recognition in the area of Above and Beyond. Tony lost several staff members at a tough budget time when we had a hiring freeze in place. He was able to maintain the high standards of care that Pohick Bay Golf Course is known for by creatively managing his staff time and taking on more of the daily operations himself.

Steve Bergstrom
As Director of Finance and Budget, Steve has transformed those departments into award winning, vital operations within NVRPA. The Finance Department has been awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting and the Budget Department has won the Government Finance Officers Association’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, each two years in a row. His departments are recognized by other staff as being exceptionally helpful in supplying information needed in our decision making processes and they are seen to be especially nimble and flexible in providing services. For the first time in NVRPA history, our outside auditors were unable to find any flaws in our 2009 financial records. Steve has provided informative, easy to understand financial reports to the NVRPA Board, thereby inspiring confidence in our management and operations.