Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Future of the Past

In Today's Washington Post there is an article by J.Freedom Du Lac about the plight of most historic house museums in the country. The problem is steeply declining attendance, and a trend that has been going on for decades. Just in Virginia there are over 100 historic house museums, most of which operate at significant losses.

Monticello saw 671,000 visitors at its peak forty years ago, and now sees 440,000. Stratford Hall on the Northern Neck saw 80,000 visitors during the Bicentennial and now sees 27,000 visitors. While some look for excuses like a lack of interest in history, or gas prices, that is not the reality. The movie on Lincoln is one of the top 25 grossing movies this year, and the Smithsonian Institute has seen increasing attendance.

I believe the core issue is how is information being delivered, what is the experience that these sites are selling?

Someone telling visitors about the furnishings of a room was enough 40 years ago, but not enough to grow attendance today. The new Mt. Vernon Education Center, has a 4D movie, where it snows in the theater when they are at Valley Forge, and the chairs shake when the cannons fire. Their are various hands on displays that are much more inviting than the typical museum. This makes for t he kind of interactive experience that attracts visitors. Re-enactments is another type of event that makes history come alive for the public. Smartphone apps is another area that offers a great potential to build a new experience.

The trick for today's historic sites is to offer a compelling experience that is worthy of the public's time and money. That experience needs to be much more than just an old artifact behind layers of UV protected glass. We need to make history come alive and engage the public in a compelling way that makes them want to learn more about our wonderful shared history.
Children get into the action at the Ball's Bluff Battle Reenactment

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Crowd Sourcing Parks

Yelp is a great web site for finding a good restaurant, but did you know it can also help you find a great park? Absolutely! Below is a sampling of Northern Virginia Regional Parks and their consumer ratings on Yelp. The great think about this kind of rating is that it is crowd sources to our actual users. The result is that customers get an unvarnished view of the things users found good and bad.

It only take one or two grumpy reviews to bring a score down, but I am proud to say that our parks rank very highly by our users.

W&OD Trail
W&OD Trail: 27 reviews and about a 4.5 rating:

Meadowlark Gardens: 21 reviews and a 4.5 rating:
Meadowlark Garden

Bull Run Shooting Center (Skeet & Trap): 21 reviews and a 4.5 rating:

Fountainhead Regional Park: 14 reviews and a 4.5 rating:

Pohick Bay Regional Park: 2 reviews and a 4.5 rating:

Great Waves at Cameron Run
 Cameron Run/Great Waves: 21 reviews and a 4 rating:

Upton Hills Regional Park: 21 reviews and a 4 rating:

Potomac Overlook Regional Park: 2 reviews and a 4 rating:

Occoquan Regional Park: 2 reviews and a 5 rating:

Algonkian Regional Park: 11 reviews and a 3.5 rating:

Pirates Cove Waterpark: 3 reviews and a 4.5 rating:

Carlyle House: 2 reviews and a 4 rating:

Carlyle House

Monday, December 17, 2012

Forget Resolutions, create a Strategic Plan

As we approach a New Year many people will be thinking about New Year resolutions. I suggest, forget the resolution, and adopt a personal strategic plan.

While they may sound similar there are some important differences. First it is important to state your goals in the positive, too often resolutions are stated in the negative (I want to lose weight, spend less, etc.) Second resolutions tend to be a one-off goal, not tied to a larger vision of the future.

The process of strategic planning starts with the end. What is your vision of where you would like to be in 5-10 years? You can create this vision for your career, relationships, physical fitness, lifestyle, or whatever you like. It would be great if it was an integrated vision that included all of the above. What in your ideal world ‘could be?’ If you believe it is impossible, then it is. If you believe it is possible, then it has a good chance of being just that.

Once you have the end vision firmly in your mind (preferably on paper), then start thinking about what are some of the key steps that would need to be taken between now and then. Don’t believe you can or should write down every detail, because you do not know exactly how life will unfold, but instead think about the pivotal steps.

With the key steps identified, think about how you might be able to measure your progress, so you see that you are moving in the right direction. Measuring progress creates positive momentum.

Now you have all the pieces of a strategic plan. It is flexible enough to bend with changing circumstances, and specific enough to keep you on the right track.

Then keep the end vision in mind while you put your attention and efforts towards the first key measurable result. When that is achieved move to the next, and so on.

This approach is much more powerful than creating a “don’t list” like most resolutions. Or maybe your resolution needs to be to create a strategic plan?

Friday, December 14, 2012

W&OD as vital community resource

Recently citizen committees in both Falls Church and Vienna Virginia looked at the role the W&OD Trail plays in those jurisdictions. The 45 mile trail goes through four towns, three counties and one city. It is really the center spine of the the region's bike routes, and also serves local walkers all along its course. Above is the letter from the Falls Church Committee. Last week Chris Pauley, our Director of Operations, and I, met with the Vienna Town Council to discuss the report from the committee in that Town. 

It is hard to overstate the vital role the W&OD Trail plays in all the communities it passes through.

Monday, December 10, 2012

New parkland along the Potomac

Wright Property is where the "cabin" is marked on this 1918 map
 Today, we acquired a new piece of parkland along the Potomac River. 10.7 acres a few miles upstream from Scott's Run Nature Preserve. This beautiful river-front property will help future efforts to make the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

Ms Wright did a bargain sale of her property, where the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority paid for part of the value of the property, and she donated a portion of the value. The property has been in her family for 100 years, and she wanted to see it preserved forever as parkland.

Ms Wright with Paul Gilbert at Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority Headquarters

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Strategic Planning Video

See the video outlining some of the high points in the new 5 year Strategic Plan for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. It is about 8 minutes and touches on every area of focus for the plan.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Investing in a healthy retirement plan

Because the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is an independent governmental authority (not part of a City, County or State), we do a lot of our own administrative functions like, purchasing, human resources, and retirement plans, that in a larger government would be handled by different departments.

Our retirement plan is run by a group of Trustees that include an elected representative of the retirees, the Planning and Development Director, Chairman of the NVRPA Board, and me, the Executive Director. We had one of our regular meetings yesterday to work on diversifying some of our investments and review our performance. Our investments had grown about 12% so far this year, but with the fiscal cliff looming, the stock performance in December is anyone’s guess?

Like almost all retirement plans ours has been hurt by the erratic stock performance particularly through the recession. We also carry some unfunded obligations from when the plan was started in the 1980s. The good news is that we have been taking good consistent actions over time to make the plan healthy. Every year we have an actuarial study to determine how much should be contributed, and each year we make to commitment to fund that amount. In our Strategic Plan we pledged to reduce the unfunded obligations from when the plan was started by 25% over the next 5 years.

Several years ago in the heart of the recession we had a special two day Board Retreat where we looked in detail at all of our options for retirement benefits. After an in-depth analysis, we decided the best option was to work to make our plan healthy. We have been putting a lot of effort to those ends ever since.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Trails and Conservation

I recently spoke to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club at their annual dinner and awards ceremony held at the Atrium at Meadowlark Gardens. PATC is a fantastic group that for decades has been building and maintaining hundreds of miles of trails in our region. In addition to large areas of the Appalachian Trial and the portions of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, they also maintain the Bull Run/Occoquan Trail which is an 18 mile nature trail along the southern boarder of Fairfax County Va.

A number of trail groups like PATC help the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority maintain our 100+ miles of trails. I estimated that for every mile of trail we have over $3,000 in volunteer labor per year. That is a saving of over $300,000 to the public contributed by all of these volunteers, just for our park system!

I also told the group of about 200 club members about our founder Ira Gabrielson who served as the Chairman of NVRPA for our first 17 years. Gabrielson was the first Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and was inducted into the Conservationist Hall of Fame.

We are very proud of our conservationist roots, and our long-standing partnership with the PATC and other trail groups that help us run our 11,000+ acre park system.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meadowlark Winter Walk of Lights... Awesome!

The all new Winter Walk of Light at Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna Virginia is an unbelievable show. Over a half mile walking through one of the best public gardens with over a half million LED lights! The theme is nature with fish jumping from a river of lights, flowers bloom, and butterflies fly in the winter! While there are spectacular animated displays, perhaps the most inspiring elements are the hundreds of trees that are wrapped in stunningly vibrant colored lights.

This is one of the truly one of a kind shows in the area. A world class attraction.

Tickets are sold on-line at:

Do not miss the opportunity to see this amazing show!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Potomac Floods

Algonkian Regional Park on October 31, 2012

With Hurricane Sandy dumping many inches of rain in the Potomac River watershed, the river is doing its job and carrying that water out to the Bay. Along the way is Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling Virginia. Here are some pictures of the park today, and the river will likely crest sometime tomorrow.

Because rivers flood, one of the best uses for the floodplain next to rivers is to make them parks. Parks like these offer the public access to the river, great areas to hike, play, picnic, and decompress from our daily lives. Then a few times a year, or every few years the waters rise and the park serves a secondary purpose of controlling the flood waters. Parkland next to waterways also serves as natural filters cleaning storm water runoff before it reaches the river. Such passive filtering reduces the expense of treating drinking water. These areas are also some of the richest places for a diversity of plant and animal life.

Most of the over 11,000 acres of parkland owned and operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is along our major waterways. We have over 14 miles of Potomac River frontage, and over 25 miles along the Bull Run and Occoquan Rivers.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Good Investment - Civil War Preservation

Ball's Bluff Battlefield will soon be expanded. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and the Civil War Trust are partnering to acquire a property called the "Jackson House." This is the site where the fighting that erupted into the Battle of Ball's Bluff started 151 years ago.

Below is an editorial that was in Leesburg Today about his announced acqusition:

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 1862 - Big events in the Civil War

150 years ago this month big things happened in the Civil War. The Battle of Antietam, which was the bloodiest day in American history, was fought near Sharpsburg MD on September 17th. On September 22, in the wake of the modest Union victory at Antietam, President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. From that point on, the Union mission was the freedom of all people in America, rather than just the number of stars on the flag. This gave the war a different and much greater significance than it had had in the first year.

Before the battle could take place, the Confederate Army would need to cross the Potomac River from Virginia to Maryland. The person most involved in selecting the place to cross was Col. Elijah White. Below is a recently found letter from White about the crossing writen years after the war.

Today the property on the Virginia side where the crossing took place is owned by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and will be open to the public next Spring as White's Ford Regional Park.

White is in the front row holding the sword


Of Leesburg VA

Leesburg VA June 2, 1896

Gen. E. A. Carman

My Dear Gen.,

Answering your letter of May 25. Sorry I can give no information as to Munford’s Cavalry Brigade Sept. 17th, I was not at the battle of Antietam. But I can speak positively about where Gen. Lee crossed into Maryland Sept. 1862. It was White’s Ford. The night before crossing Gen. Jackson’s Headquarters was at Big Spring, house of “Washington Ball” two miles NE of Leesburg on Leesburg & Pot. Of Rocks road. Gen. Lee’s at the house of Henry T. Harrison, Leesburg, VA. By order of Gen. Jackson I went with him to Gen. Lee that night at which time they determined on the march for the next day. Gen. Jackson wanted me to go in front the next day, I did so, crossed at White’s Ford on my own at that time. Camped the next night near Three Springs Frederick Co. Md.

I will mention here one of Gen. Jackson’s peculiarities. He ordered me to attend him, starting a little after dark. He rode over the road we march[ed] that day nearly back to the Potomac River, then back to camp again—not speaking a word.

Would be glad to furnish you any information in my power, Can give information about Leesburg.

Most Resp’y, E.V. White

Top GFOA Awards for Budget & Audit

News Story from the Sun Gazette Newspaper

Regional Park Authority Wins 5th Straight Budget Awards

Posted: Friday, September 7, 2012 10:34 am

For the fifth year in a row, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) has won top honors from the Government Financial Officers Association (GFOA) for the agency’s budget and annual financial audit.

Only a small percentage of government agencies have the level of financial transparency to achieve these awards, and even fewer can win these awards consistently over five years, Park Authority officials said.

The GFOA gave the Park Authority a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the agency’s audit, or Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. This award is only given to organizations that receive a “clean audit,” are in full compliance with all new accounting standards and controls, and present their budgets in a manner that is clear and easy to understand.

The GFOA also gave the Park Authority a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, which the association bestows on organizations that produce budgets that are clear and easy to understand, as well as reflect revenues and expenses.

“It is a great honor to partner with a well-run organization like the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority,” said Susan Datta, Fairfax County’s chief financial officer. “We put a high value on the GFOA Awards as measure of excellence in financial management.”

Park Authority officials said they strive to tie the agency’s budget to its strategic goals and use the budget as a tool to track performance.

“On behalf of the NVRPA Board of Directors, I wish to congratulate the entire staff for all the hard work and intensive planning associated with these top honors,” said NVRPA board chairman Brian Knapp. “In our current five-year strategic plan, the board has attached great importance to developing an annual budget for both operating and capital expenditures that is tied directly to the goals and objectives we have identified for our parks. This is the commitment we have made to our six member jurisdictions, and it is nice to see how the Park Authority has been recognized for five straight years in developing and implementing such innovative and sound budgets.”

Knapp added, “These accolades also reflect the total commitment of our employees spread across 25 parks who are working efficiently and diligently every day to provide recreational experiences to the citizens of Northern Virginia.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Financial Transparency & Enterprise Operations

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority generates 83% of its operating revenues through enterprise operations. This puts NVRPA in the top 1% of park agencies in the nation when it comes to offering the citizens a very high value for that amount of tax funds that support the agency.

Because we are so dependant on generating our own operating funds, we spend a lot of time focusing on how best to serve our customers and improve our offerings.

We also put a high value on financial transparency. We want the public to be able to understand our budget and finances because it is good government to do so. We post our annual audit (CAFR) and our annual budget on our web site. We are also always working on improving those documents so they are more useful and easier to read. Below is a new chart that we created today that shows the net financial performance of each park, and compares it to the next performance last year.

Our focus on transparency has resulted in winning the Government Financial Officers Association's top rankings for both our audit and budget for the last four years in a row.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bold New Strategic Plan

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has released it's Draft Strategic Plan for 2012 - 2017.

2012 – 2017 Vision and Plan:

The draft Strategic Plan has a number of bold initiatives that will enhance NVRPA and the entire region.

Over 50% of households participate annually in: walking for pleasure, visiting historic sites, visiting local parks and visiting natural areas, according to the 2011 Virginia Outdoor Survey. To respond to this desire for trails, natural areas and historic sites, NVRPA will build on its success at acquiring new parkland in the coming years.

Addressing the issue of children spending less time outdoors in nature, there is an initiative called ‘Nature Nuts’ that will enhance programs and facilities that serve children. The goal of this program is, that in five years half a million area children will have a meaningful outdoor experience through the regional parks. This program will have the effect of improving the physical and mental health of our youth.

NVRPA will be a pioneer in using evolving information and mobile technology to help provide interpretation and educational opportunities in the parks in a creative and cost effective way.

The Regional Park Authority is unique in generating over 83% of its operating revenues from enterprise operations, offering the taxpayers a remarkable value. The Strategic Plan builds on this strength with a combination of new or renovated facilities and a focus on customer service that will allow the Authority to continue to be a model of efficiency.

With over 100 miles of trails, including some of the longest in the region (W&OD at 45 miles, and Bull Run/Occoquan at 18 miles) NVRPA will expand its role as a leader in developing and promoting major trail systems in Northern Virginia.

With a focus on regional destination sites, NVRPA will continue its role as an economic engine of the region’s tourism economy by opening new sites and expanded offerings that attract visitors to Northern Virginia.

About NVRPA:

Founded over fifty years ago with a focus on regional land conservation, NVRPA today has over 11,000 acres and 25 parks and operates in six jurisdictions: Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties as well as Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax Cities.

NVRPA is governed by a 12 person Board that is appointed by the six member jurisdictions. NVRPA parks include the following:

Aldie Mill Historic Park

Algonkian Regional Park

Ball's Bluff Battlefield

Blue Ridge Regional Park

Brambleton Regional Park

Bull Run Regional Park

Bull Run Marina

Bull Run Public Shooting Center

Cameron Run Regional Park

Carlyle House Historic Park

Fountainhead Regional Park

Gateway Regional Park

Gilbert’s Corner Regional Park

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

Mt. Defiance Historic Park (soon to be an NVRPA property)

Mt. Zion Historic Park

Occoquan Regional Park

Pohick Bay Regional Park

Potomac Overlook

Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park

Rust Sanctuary (soon to be leased by NVRPA)

Sandy Run Regional Park

Temple Hall Farm Regional Park

Upton Hill Regional Park

W&OD Trail

White’s Ford Regional Park

Waterpark Innovation

Both July and August issues of Park and Recreation Magazine have had articles that highlighted some of the innovative work the Northern Virgina Regional Park Authority has done with their five waterparks. Innovation is a big part of most successful organizations and it certainly is a part of the NVRPA success story.

August 2012 issue features innovation in aquatics:

The Experience Economy

Gilbert credits this strategic mindset with the recent success of three of Northern Virginia’s aquatic facilities, which, since renovations in the late 2000s, have recovered costs and generated revenues on an increasing basis. By taking advantage of the Blue Ocean Strategy (developed by Chan Kim and RenĂ©e Mauborgne), his agency created new market space targeting a specific set of decision makers—children ages 4 to 10.

For example, at Pirates Cove Waterpark in Lorton, Virginia, features such as water cannons and dumping buckets are presented with a thoroughly integrated pirates theme. Children can enjoy murals, play on a ship, and dig for “treasure”—medallions they can trade for trinkets at a treasure chest. Gilbert says the iconic images and fixtures, some visible from the road, create a sense of adventure that can’t be replicated. “The experience starts long before you get inside,” he states.

July 2012 issue featured general innovation within the field of Parks & Rec. and highlighted some of NVRPA's waterparks.

Nurturing Innovation

Innovative initiatives like Schwerner’s require an organizational culture that values and nurtures new ideas.

Paul Gilbert, executive director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), says this precept is more than just common sense—it is backed by libraries of leadership research. Gilbert, who teaches a course on organizational innovation within George Mason University’s Parks, Recreation, and Leisure Studies department, offers his students digests of research findings on leadership and innovation.

“In study after study,” he says, “when leadership shows that they are not interested in new ideas, innovation shuts down. Why should you? It’s not going to be rewarded….I think organizations can get stuck in the status quo without even knowing it.”

Conversely, when an organization actively encourages and rewards groundbreaking ideas, innovation tends to thrive and become the norm. Gilbert takes lessons from all this research: Under his leadership, NVRPA has formally identified innovation as one of the organization’s core values. And tangible incentives, such as annual employee recognition awards, are based upon demonstrations of innovative thinking. Gilbert says that when core values lead to new ways of thinking, fresh ways of doing business become more and more apparent. He offers NVRPA’s approach to revenue as an example:

“For quite awhile, we thought that to generate any new revenue we had to build a new facility. That was the only choice. What we realized is that that’s just one out of a number of avenues. You can actually do a whole lot in thinking about the customer and their experience and adding more onto it.”

Monday, July 23, 2012

Paddle Boarding (SUP) at Pohick Bay

Experience the Hottest New Trend on the Water

Have you seen those people standing on surf boards and paddling with a long handled paddle? Maybe you have seen pictures of movie stars paddle boarding or seen them at the beach this summer? Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is the newest thing in paddle sports and is growing fast. Now you can try it out locally.

Pohick Bay Regional Park in Lorton Virginia is the only public park in Virginia that rents paddle boards. So now for the same price as renting a canoe or kayak for an hour you can try this exciting new sport. The boat rental operations are open from 10:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M. on weekends and holidays until October 8, 2012.

“Over the last 10-15 years kayaking has grown rapidly in popularity and they are still our most popular boats to rent. Paddle Boards may be a similar trend in the future with more and more people becoming familiar with them,” remarked Paul Gilbert, Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. “I hope many people take advantage of the great opportunity to rent on and give it a try. The first time you get on one of these it is a little wobbly, but after a little practice it gets easier,” continued Gilbert.

For residents of Fairfax, Arlington or Loudoun Counties or the Cities of Alexandria, Falls Church or Fairfax it is just $8.50 per hour including paddleboard, paddle, and life vest. For residents of all other jurisdictions it is $9.50 per hour. Canoes and Kayaks are available at Pohick Bay Regional Park for the same prices.

Pohick Bay Regional Park is located off U.S. Route 1 on Gunston Road. The address is 6501 Pohick Bay Drive Lorton, VA 22079.

History of Paddle Boarding from Wikipedia:

The popularity of the modern sport of SUP'ing has its origin in the Hawaiian Islands. In the early 1960s, the beach boys of Waikiki would stand on their long boards, and paddle out with outrigger paddles to take pictures of the tourists learning to surf. This is where the term "beach boy surfing", another name for Stand Up Paddle Surfing, originates.[1]

The sport benefits athletes with a strong "core" workout. SUP'ing is popular at warm coastal climates and resorts, and is gaining in popularity as celebrities are sampling the sport, and cross-over athletes are training with SUP. SUPs have been spotted around the globe, anywhere there is easy access to safe waters, as well as in the surfing lineups of the world. Another reason for the rise in popularity of stand up paddleboarding is that, unlike surfing, paddleboarding is very easy to learn. Within one hour you can become very comfortable in the water and on your board. Stand up paddleboarding is also more popular with women because of their lower center of gravity, women are often more skilled at paddleboarding than men.[2]

Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama re-introduced the ancient sport of paddle surfing to the modern water sports world. The first "modern" surfer to bring Stand Up Paddle Surfing out of Hawaii and to the mainland United States was Vietnam veteran Rick Thomas. [3]

Custom surf shaper Jimmy Lewis, created one of the first modern production boards, the All Around.

Surfers have converted because of the versatility of the new sport. Stand up paddle boarding offers surfers the ability to catch more waves in a set, as well as offering a better view of incoming sets.

River SUP'ing is gaining popularity in the boating community due to the skill and agility required to navigate rapids and obstacles.

Stand up paddle surfing is now the fastest growing water surf activity because it allows a wider range of athletic types to get involved and SUP surfers need not schedule around high and low tides[4]

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Al Fresco lunch at Brambleton

Looking for a new lunch experience while in central Loudoun County? Look no further than Brambleton Golf Course off of Ryan Road.

Brambleton now features an all new menu and outdoor seating. So whether you golf or not, you can have your Ale House custom burger or salad, or other great dinning option and sit with a view of the golf course. Call a friend and make this your next lunch place.

While you are there you can always play some golf, or just rent some clubs and hit a bucket of balls on the driving range.

In addition to a golf and lunch destination, Brambleton Golf Course is also an ideal location for a large reception. Many people use the gazebo for a wedding ceremony and the elegant shelter area for the reception.

Come out and see the wonderful improvements at Brambleton Golf Course.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Best Waterparks in Northern Virginia

With Memorial Day Weekend upon us it is time for pools and waterparks. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has the best collection of waterparks in the region by far with 5 exciting waterparks. Check out the all new web sites for most of our waterparks. All of these waterparks have seen significant rennovations recently.You will want to visit all of these sites this summer many times.

Great Waves at Cameron Run
One of the largest waterparks in the region with a giant wave pool, speed slides, large slide towers, sand play areas, cabanas, shelters, food concession and much much more. For 2012 Great Waves features the tallest play feature of its type east of the Mississippi!

Pirate's Cove at Pohick Bay
Excitement for all ages await at Pirate's Cove. In addition to the giant dumping bucket, smaller slides and water cannons, this year the waterpark has an all new slide tower that stretches 30 feet above the deck. Treasure is buried in the sand for those brave enough to dig for it. Learn about the the golden age of pirates while you have a fun filled day at Pirate's Cove.

Atlantis at Bull Run
For thousands of years people have been searching for the last city of Atlantis. It is now found and who guessed it would be in Centreville Virginia! Ancient Greek ruins, mermaids, Poseidon, the biggest dumping bucket in the area, food, sand, slides and fun.

Volcano Island at Algonkian
Boasting the biggest and best volcano in Northern Virginia, go explore the island. Palm trees, thatched roofs, giant Easter Island stone heads on the deck, Volcano Island is a Polynesian paradise. You can expect great slides, sand play area, wonderful attractions for kids of all ages.

Ocean Dunes at Upton Hills
Thinking about the Outer Banks but do not want to sit in a car for 5 hours? We have the perfect alternative. Ocean Dunes puts you in the beach frame of mind without the drive. A beautiful waterpark with waterslides, multiple play pools, food and much more. Next to Ocean Dunes is the world famous Upton Hills mini golf as well as popular batting cages.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Virginia Outdoor Survey

Over half of Virginia Families walk for pleasure, visit historic sites, visit parks and natural areas. And the numbers engaging in these activities is on the rise!

This is just a taste of the great information in the Virginia Outdoor Survey.

Every 5 years the Commonwealth of Virginia conducts a survey of citizens to better understand their outdoor needs and desires. The latest survey (see link above) has just recently been released. This information in addition to public comments and meetings in every region of the state are assembled and result in a document called the Virginia Outdoor Plan (VOP). This five year plan in currently being worked on.

Virginia has been doing some version of this process every five years since the mid 1960s. It serves as a great resource to planners and others that work on expanding parkland, preserved properties and developing public amenities to support use of the outdoors by the public.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Exceptional Employee Performance

Every year we celebrate the great performance of our employees with the Employee Achievement Awards. Staff members nominate co-workers for going above and beyond just doing a good job. A committee of employees from different parts of the organization reviews the nominations and awards the top prizes. Below are some of the stand out performers of the last year. (In the photos, Stella Koch, Vice Chair, and Brian Knapp, Chairman are on the left, the award winner is in the middle, and I am on the right).

James D. Smith

Bull Run Regional Park

In the categories of Innovation and Programming: Doug led the efforts to construct two authentic
Civil War “Winter Quarter Huts” and soldiers’ camp at Bull Run Regional Park. The huts constructed by hand using natural materials and methods provide a unique opportunity to educate the visiting public about how the Civil War soldier lived.

Deborah A. Humphreys

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

In the category of Above-and-Beyond: Debbie oversees all design, plant ordering, planting and volunteer management in the Potomac Valley Collection, the Virginia Native Tree Collection and the Lake Lena Virginia Native Wetland. She embodies a profound commitment to the conservation of regional plant diversity and fills a highly important role at the Park.

Arthur R. Rogers

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

In the category of Above-and-Beyond: Bob has become an integral part of the Park staff, designing and installing gardens throughout the Park, including the popular Children’s Tea Garden; building and installing features for the Halloween Program; designing signage with complex software; maintaining the database of all plants at the Park and making photo records of major projects over the past 15 years, including the Korean Bell Garden.

Robert L. Beech

Brambleton Golf Course

In the category of Team Player: Bob’s willingness to step in and work in all aspects of the Pro Shop operation is extremely valuable to the golf course operations. Bob routinely takes on the training of new staff members and has set the standard for effective management of the golf course’s tee sheet. This ensures accurate record keeping of play and membership play.

Blythe B. Russian

NVRPA Headquarters

In the category of Above-and-Beyond: Blythe took the lead in several key areas that helped make the high profile Special Park Districts Forum an  overwhelming success for NVRPA. From developing the complete forum schedule to assisting with the logistic and marketing needs, the forum’s success was a direct result of her exceptional efforts and hard work.

Dale T. Hook

Pohick Bay Regional Park

In the categories of Customer Service and Above-and-Beyond: Dale’s hard work and dedication at the Pohick Bay Camp Store and now as the headquarters’ receptionist are the perfect example of someone who cares about her job and the experience of our patrons. Dale is always on task and ready at a moment’s notice to go out of her way to assist others, including staff.

David W. Pinner

Algonkian Regional Park

In the category of Versatility: Dave is the first one to tackle new challenges, even if they are outside of his normal assigned duties. Recently, Dave came up with new and inexpensive ways to help with the Park’s ongoing waterpark theming project, creating “Hawaiian Paddles” out of scrap lumber and “Adirondack” style chairs out of old surf boards. These features had an immediate impact and add to the customer experience at Volcano Waterpark.

Eric E. Ferguson

Bull Run Regional Park

In the category of Above-and-Beyond: Eric’s efforts in managing the Light Show have produced dramatic results. The show has grown in attendance while it continues to maintain its efficiency from a budget perspective. Eric has quickly developed a keen eye and level of creativity that has had a great effect on how the show looks and the overall customer experience. He is open to new ideas and has a clear vision on how he wants to continue to grow the show.

George E. Tabb, Jr.
Ball’s Bluff Regional Park

In the category of Programming: George worked tirelessly and effectively for more than a year to deliver the 150th reenactment event of the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. He worked quickly to create buy-in by key stakeholders who would have a role in the day. The logistics of the entire weekend were flawless and, as such, the day of the event ran smoothly without issue and created what will always be considered a hallmark event of our organization.

Helen K. Wirka

Carlyle House

In the category of Programming: Helen has injected enthusiasm and interest in the form of several new programs for Carlyle House; including their first ever summer concert series. Helen worked with several diverse performing groups to put together

three special evenings of music for the people who live, work and play in Alexandria. Helen’s work to revamp some existing programs has led to increased attendance and renewed interest.

John D. Moore
Temple Hall Farm Regional Park

In the category of Innovation: John’s idea to create a new four mile equestrian trail within Temple Hall has added an exceptional feature to this diverse park. To accomplish this, John worked with NVRPA maintenance staff and recruited a local Eagle Scout candidate to assist with clearing of the trail, building of jumps and a trail sign plan.

Keith P. Tomlinson

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

In the category of Above-and-Beyond: Keith volunteered to take on whatever role was needed during the Special Park Districts Forum. This included accompanying the group on offsite visits to local museums and into the city for the group’s “Big Night Out.” Keith also led a session on Connecting Kids with Nature, which proved to be one of the most popular sessions.

Kelly A. Koster

Upton Hill Regional Park - Temple Hall Farm Regional Park - Bull Run Regional Park

In the category of Versatility: Kelly exemplifies the term versatility. In the past year, she has assisted with the operations at Upton Hill and, as part of her responsibilities, worked at the Corn Maize at Temple Hall and the Festival of Lights at Bull Run. Kelly even managed to find some time to help manage the reenactment event at Ball’s Bluff. Kelly has done all of this with unmatched enthusiasm and commitment.

John M. Woods

Algonkian Regional Park

In the category of Above-and-Beyond: Matt has taken on the challenge of helping to coordinate the pool committee for the upcoming season. Transferring to a new park with new responsibilities, Matt also led a review of the agency-wide boat and RV storage contracts, producing a better, more detailed process that protects NVRPA’s interests.

Pohick Bay Golf Maintenance Team
Sean Q. Owens

Pohick Bay Golf Course

In the categories of Above-and-Beyond and Cost Saving: Sean has been part of a team that has taken on a number of golf course improvement projects in-house that are normally handled by outside contractors. These projects have included drainage improvements, golf course landscaping and the renovation of many course features and bunkers. This work has resulted in significant savings to the operation and was all done while still meeting the everyday maintenance demands of the course.

Corey R. Hall

Pohick Bay Golf Course

In the categories of Above-and-Beyond and Cost Saving: Corey has been part of a team that has taken on a number of golf course improvement projects in-house that are normally handled by outside contractors. These projects have included drainage improvements, golf course landscaping and the renovation of many course features and bunkers. This work has resulted in significant savings to the operation and was all done while still meeting the everyday maintenance demands of the course.

Quan T. Do

Pohick Bay Golf Course

In the categories of Above-and-Beyond and Cost Saving: Quan has been part of a team that has taken on a number of golf course improvement projects in-house that are normally handled by outside contractors. These projects have included drainage improvements, golf course landscaping and the renovation of many course features and bunkers. This work has resulted in significant savings to the operation and was all done while still meeting the everyday maintenance demands of the course.

Michael T. Rogers

Pohick Bay Golf Course

In the categories of Above-and-Beyond and Cost Saving: Michael has been part of a team that has taken on a number of golf course improvement projects in-house that are normally handled by outside contractors. These projects have included drainage improvements, golf course landscaping and the renovation of many course features and bunkers. This work has resulted in significant savings to the operation and was all done while still meeting the everyday maintenance demands of the course.

Cory W. Stiftar 
Pohick Bay Golf Course

In the categories of Above-and-Beyond and Cost Saving: Cory has been part of a team that has taken on a number of golf course improvement projects in-house that are normally handled by outside contractors. These projects have included drainage improvements, golf course landscaping and the renovation of many course features and bunkers. This work has resulted in significant savings to the operation and was all done while still meeting the everyday maintenance demands of the course.

Charles A. Blevins

Pohick Bay Golf Course

In the categories of Above-and-Beyond and Cost Saving: Tony was instrumental in the decision to take on a number of golf course improvement projects using his existing crew, that have had far reaching effects on the overall golfer experience, without resulting in large capital dollar expenditures. Tony has effectively balanced accomplishing these improvements with his crew and the daily operational needs of the course. The results have been improved conditions for the course and significant savings for the Park Authority.

Greatest Reduction in Energy Consumption: Headquarters

Greatest % Improvement in Net Finanical Performance: Algonkian Regional Park