Friday, March 02, 2012

Environmental & Cultural Stewardship

One of the questions in the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) Gold Metal nomination was on your efforts in the area of natural and cultural stewardship. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has had a central conservation/preservation mission for over 50 years. Here again, there are too many things to list in the limited space provided for this nomination, but here are some highlihts.

Reducing Carbon Footprint

Starting in 2005, NVRPA took a leadership role in reducing its carbon footprint. It is the first independent park agency to sign on to the Cool Cities/Cool Counties Initiative, aimed at tracking and reducing consumption of fossil fuels. Using accounting software, the Finance Department started tracking units of fuel consumption for every facility by fuel type. This information is provided with same month previous year data to all facility managers on a regular basis. Every facility developed a site specific energy conservation plan, and every year the facility that has reduced its energy consumption by the greatest percentage is awarded a prize. This initiative has led to the early adoption of electric utility vehicles in 5 parks, hybrid vehicles, geothermal heat pumps, photovoltaic solar power generation and the development of a LEED certified building. In the January 2008 issue of Park & Recreation Magazine, this program was featured in an article called “Cool Parks.”

electric vehicles

Energy Education

In 2009, NVRPA conducted a major renovation of its nature center at Potomac Overlook Regional Park and created a first of its kind energy conservation focused nature center called the “Energerium.” This unique facility is visited by thousands of school children every year who learn about where our different sources of energy come from and how people and natural systems use energy. Part of the interpretive messages includes information about NVRPA’s energy conservation efforts.

Pesticides and Fertilizers

In 2008, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority became the first public park agency in the mid-Atlantic region to complete the multi-year process of certifying its golf courses (all 3) as Audubon International Wildlife Sanctuaries. Embracing the high standards that this certification required in the areas of pesticides and fertilizer use, led NVRPA to work with officials from EPA and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop an agency-wide policy on the use of these chemicals that far exceeds any legal requirement and established a new model for environmental management.

Environmental and Cultural Interpretation

As part of NVRPA's 2007-2012 Strategic Plan, every park became a site of learning. This meant adding interpretive displays and programming at sites that previously were focused on more recreational offerings. The interpretive messages are generally either environmental or historical. To expand environmental programming in a cost effective way, a roving naturalist initiative was developed, where a naturalist provided programming at a range of sites that did not have their own interpretive staff.

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