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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Master Carpenters Build Korean Pavilion

In the center of the Korean Bell Garden at Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna Virginia will be a traditional pavilion that will hold an enormous bell. Almost every element of this project is being done much as it would have been done a thousand years ago, except for the aid of power hand tools.

Right now a group of carpenters from Korea that have built such traditional structures before are working away forming each piece of wood by hand. They purchased large sections of White Pine that they are working on.

In today's world of modern construction, it is fascinating to see master craftsmen at work. The end result will be stunning. The main pavilion should be complete by October of 2010 and the bell which is also being cast in the same way it was done 1,000 years ago will be in place by the Spring of 2011.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A prescription for better health: go alfresco

The following article comes from Harvard Health Publications

Spending time outside might have some health benefits — and the ‘greening' of exercise might have some more.

Summer is the time when the outdoors beckons. We go to the beach in droves, have picnics and barbecues, paddle and fish and swim. Some hike, others bike, and a few do both — although not at the same time.

But these good times in the out of doors are really an exception to the rule, which is that most of us spend the vast majority of our time inside. According to one government estimate, the average American spends 90% of his or her life indoors, and as we get older we become even more inclined not to venture out.

When we do, there's a gantlet of precautions: slather on the sunscreen; take it easy — or head indoors — if air quality is bad; watch out for ticks, mosquitoes, and other creatures that might bite. It's all very well-meaning but it also reinforces indoor ways.

So it's back into the bunker — but that might not be good for you. The study results are ticking up: spending time outdoors seems to have discernible benefits for physical and mental health. Granted, some are merely by association and can be achieved by other means, perhaps while indoors, but often only with a good deal more trouble and expense. Here are five potential benefits of spending more time outdoors:

1. Your vitamin D levels will go up

Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because sunlight hitting the skin begins the circuitous process — the liver and kidneys get involved — that eventually leads to the creation of the biologically active form of the vitamin. Over all, research is showing that many vitamins, while necessary, don't have such great disease-fighting powers, but vitamin D may prove to be the exception. Epidemiologic studies are suggesting it may have protective effects against everything from osteoporosis to cancer to depression to heart attacks and stroke. Even by conventional standards, many Americans don't have enough vitamin D circulating in their bodies. The good news is that you'll make all the vitamin D you need if you get outside a few times a week during these summer days and expose your arms and legs for 10 to 15 minutes. Of course, it has to be sunny out.

There are some snags. Vitamin D production is affected by age (people ages 65 and over generate about a fourth as much as people in their 20s) and skin color (African Americans have, on average, about half the levels of vitamin D in their blood as white Americans).

Another problem: sunscreens are most effective at blocking the ultraviolet B (UVB) light, the part of the spectrum that causes sunburn, but UVB also happens to be the kind of light that kick-starts the generation of vitamin D in the skin.

The either-or of sunscreen and sunshine vitamin has stirred up a lot of controversy and debate between pro-sunscreen dermatologists and the vitamin D camp. But there is plenty of middle ground here: some limited sun exposure on short walks and the like, supplemented with vitamin D pills if necessary, and liberal use of sunscreen when you are out for extended periods, particularly during the middle of the day.

2. You'll get more exercise (especially if you're a child)

You don't need to be outside to be active: millions of people exercise indoors in gyms or at home on treadmills and elliptical trainers. Nor is being outside a guarantee of activity. At the beach on a summer day most people are in various angles of repose.

Still, there's no question that indoor living is associated with being sedentary, particularly for children, while being outdoors is associated with activity. According to some surveys, American children spend an average of 6� hours a day with electronic media (video games, television, and so on), time that is spent mainly indoors and sitting down. British researchers used Global Positioning System devices and accelerometers, which sense movement, to track the activity of 1,000 children. They found that the children were more than doubly active when they were outside.

Adults can go to the gym. Many prefer the controlled environment there. But if you make getting outside a goal, that should mean less time in front of the television and computer and more time walking, biking, gardening, cleaning up the yard, and doing other things that put the body in motion.

3. You'll be happier (especially if your exercise is ‘green')

Light tends to elevate people's mood, and unless you live in a glass house or are using a light box to treat seasonal affective disorder, there's usually more light available outside than in. Physical activity has been shown to relax and cheer people up, so if being outside replaces inactive pursuits with active ones, it might also mean more smiles and laughter.

Researchers at the University of Essex in England are advancing the notion that exercising in the presence of nature has added benefit, particularly for mental health. Their investigations into "green exercise," as they are calling it, dovetails with research showing benefits from living in proximity to green, open spaces.

In 2010 the English scientists reported results from a meta-analysis of their own studies that showed just five minutes of green exercise resulted in improvements in self-esteem and mood.

Mind you, none of the studies were randomized controlled trials. The intuitive appeal of green exercise is its strength, not the methodological rigor of the research supporting it. It's hard to imagine how a stroll in a pretty park wouldn't make us feel better than a walk in a drab setting.

4. Your concentration will improve

Richard Louv coined the term "nature-deficit disorder" in his 2008 book Last Child in the Woods. It's a play on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Researchers have, in fact, reported that children with ADHD seem to focus better after being outdoors. A study published in 2008 found that children with ADHD scored higher on a test of concentration after a walk through a park than after a walk through a residential neighborhood or downtown area. Other ADHD studies have also suggested that outdoor exercise could have positive effects on the condition. Truth be told, this research has been done in children, so it's a stretch to say it applies to adults, even those who have an ADHD diagnosis. But if you have trouble concentrating — as many do — you might see if some outdoor activity, the greener the better, helps.

5. You may heal faster

University of Pittsburgh researchers reported in 2005 that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications during their recoveries if they were exposed to natural light. An older study showed that the view out the window (trees vs. a brick wall) had an effect on patient recovery. Of course, windows and views are different than actually being outside, but we're betting that adding a little fresh air to the equation couldn't hurt and might help.


© 2000-2010 Harvard University. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Northern Virginia Waterparks

It has already been a summer season for the record books with temperatures in the 90's all the time.

In the last few years the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has become increasingly know as the place to go for summer fun, with all five of our waterparks sporting a new look, and new features. Enhancing the fun factor, NVRPA's waterparks all have themes that transport you to new, exciting places. The result of fresh newly renovated waterparks and record heat equals places that are more popular than ever before.

Collectively we have seen 40,000 more waterpark visitors this year than we have ever seen, and the summer is only half over!

  • Great Waves at Cameron Run is the waterpark that you can see from the Beltway, right off of exit #174 on Eisenhower Road in Alexandria. In addition to speed slides, and twisty slides and many other features, the centerpiece is a giant wave pool (the only one in the area). Like ocean waves you can body surf, or ride one of the free inner tubes that are available. When you are hungry the Riptide Cafe has what you need. If you want to shop for some summer essentials, the Shark Shack has you covered. If the best waterpark in the region was not enough, Cameron Run also has mini-golf and batting cages, in addition to areas for your favorite events.
  • Volcano Island is the newest waterpark to get a face lift and new features. This polynesian paradise is at Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling. Complete with giant dumping bucket, waterslides and a volcano on the roof, attendance at this site is up 70% from last year. This is a must see waterpark.
  • Atlantis was lost for thousands of years and then we discovered it at Bull Run Regional Park in Centerville. Atlantis is an ancient Greek themed waterpark for those that like mermaids, Neptune, and lots of fun features including waterslides, buckets and more. As more people are discovering this great place the word is spreading and attendance is up over 50% for the second year in a row.
  • Upton Hill in Arlington was revamped a few years ago with wonderful features including slides and more. Upton has an Outer Banks feel, for a laid back and fun summer day. This is a very popular destination.
  • Pirate's Cove is a favorite for buccaneers of all ages at Pohick Bay Regional Park in Lorton (Mason Neck). Cannons bristle and menacing flags fly as you approach Priate's Cove. Inside the fun continues and even includes buried treasure. The popularity of this great site has gone up 40% this summer.

One of the most popular ways to explore all of these great waterparks is with the Bounce Pass. This is an annual membership that allow you to use these waterparks as much as you like. Less expensive and much more fun than most community pool memberships, the Bounce Pass is a remarkable deal. For more information on the Bounce Pass see:

Permitting for White's Ford is Done

Last week the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors approve the permits for White's Ford Regional Park. This is a process that took 20 months from start to finish.

After a number of steps including additional traffic studies, we will be able to open White's Ford Park (in 2011). In the initial phasing it will be a place where those with canoes & kayaks can do a car top launch. No trailers and no motorized boats, just a beach area to launch and paddle. The public will also enjoy the natural beauty and historical significance of this great property.

It is not open yet. And will need a number of further steps including creating an internal road, and the launch area, the end of farming, before it will be ready to launch boats and explore. In the next year we plan to plant many trees and convert some of the open fields into meadows that will attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

Historically, this is the site where the Confederate Army crossed the river on their way to Antietam in 1862.

Gaining almost 300 acres of new parkland along the Potomac River is a huge deal for the environment and the public good.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Volcano Island Errupts at Algonkian

The waterparks of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority have become known and loved for their great theming. We have Pirate's Cove at Pohick Bay, Great Waves at Cameron Run, Atlantis at Bull Run. Even Upton Hill has new themeing elements that will transport you to the Outer Banks. But now the Pacific is closer than ever before with the opening of Volcano Island at Algonkian.

Complete with a smoking volcano, palm trees, thatch, Easter Island heads, and much more, Volcano Island is the cool place to spend hot summer days.

The renovations have already brought record numbers of people to the waterpark and the word of mouth is just starting. Come see for yourself.

Korean Bell Garden Ground Breaking

The Korean Bell Garden project at Meadowlark Gardens is progressing ahead of schedule thanks to the great work of Jeung Hwa Elmejjad-Yi the Chair of the Korean American Cultural Committee (KACC). We now have the building permit in hand to build the pavilion that will hold the bell, and carpenters from Korea are coming soon to start carving raw wood into the pieces that will be used in this traditional pavilion.

This spring we planted over 100 trees native to Korea, put in stone terracing and steps, and a path through this area of the garden.

Earlier this week we had the ground breaking. One of the things that made this event even more meaningful was that this was the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. Many Korean War veterans attended as well as Mrs. Han the wife of the Korean Ambassador, Congressman Moran, State Senator Peterson, Fairfax Chair Sharon Bulova and Fairfax County Supervisors Penny Gross and Cathy Hudgins, and many others.

This will be the first Korean Bell Garden in North America. The pavilion is expected to be complete this fall and the bell should be on site by next spring.

In addition to be a place of great beauty, it will be a cultural icon for tens of thousands of Korean Americans in our area, and a tourist attraction for Northern Virginia.