This is the blog of Paul Gilbert the Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. This blog focuses on news related to NVRPA some of the themes covered include: energy conservation, reducing carbon footprint, strategic planning, organizational culture, living history, reenactments, natural interpretation, waterparks, pools, golf courses, nature centers, boating, camping, hiking, cycling, and much more.
asked some great questions and I am happy to answer. I wish you all the best on your path towards becoming
an Eagle Scout.
Do you create new
parks or do you just expand and renovate the old ones?
systems are mostly about the land. Because
of this, I think good park systems are always looking for ways to expand. In the last five years, the Northern Virginia
Regional Park Authority has added over 500 acres at seven different locations. So yes, we expand parkland and also renovate
older park facilities.
If you create new
ones, how do you decide where to build them?
Virginia, with so much of the land already developed, we are always looking for
where there are great opportunities to find land that might make good parks. As we look at various properties, we use a
score card to rank what kind of characteristics that land has. We look at issues such as: protection of major
rivers, protection of natural or historic resources, accessibility to the
public, development potential and cost. If
the property scores high, and if we have the money or can get grants, then our
Board authorizes us to make an offer to the landowner.
If you expand and
renovate old parks how do you decide when it is time to expand and renovate?
like ours have two budgets . One is for ongoing day-to-day operations, and one
is for one-time big expenses like building something or buying land. This one-time big project budget is called
“Capital.” Building new facilities and
major renovations are funded from this Capital Budget, and a big piece of those
funds come from park bonds (see the questions below).
question about when we plan to build or renovate facilities comes back to the
Capital Budget. We will have a big
picture plan for how these funds will be spent over the next 5 years, which is
called our “Capital Improvement Plan.” Then,
every year we update a more specific plan of what we will do in our annual
Capital Budget. When we get new
facilities or equipment, we estimate how long it will last. A new building
might have an estimated life of 40 years, and a new roof might be 20. This does not mean that we replace these
assets at that age, it is just an estimate to help us plan. As facilities get older, we inspect them to
see how they are doing and fix them as needed.
to fixing up our old facilities, we are always looking for new facilities that
will serve the public in great new ways. We go to trade shows, read what other park
systems are doing around the county and use our imagination to come up with
exciting new features.
We built a
new holiday light show at Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna and opened it last year.
About 30,000 people experience this feature
each year now. We are planning and
permitting a new waterpark ride that is like a roller coaster and that will be
open at Cameron Run Waterpark in the summer of 2015. And we are planning major renovations to
Occoquan Regional Park that will make that park serve the public better than
How do young
people can help in many ways.
new parkland, we need money to fund the purchases. You live in Fairfax County and about every 4
years or so, there is a County Park Bond. This is when the voters are asked to approve
an effort by the county to borrow money to help fund both land acquisition and
building new park facilities. When these
bonds happen, young people can talk to groups and write letters to newspapers,
or post on their blogs support for these efforts. About every ten years, the state also has a
bond for State Parks and Natural Areas (Virginia is a few years overdue for
young people like you cannot vote, as someone who hikes, camps and uses parks,
you can influence others about how important it is to support parks and expand
that young people like you can help is to offer your service in fixing up
parks.Either with your troop, as an
Eagle project, or as an individual volunteer, there are always a lot of projects
to be done in parks. Talk to the park
manager of any park and they will likely have a great list of projects they
could use your help on. At NVRPA, we
have around 50,000 hours a year that are volunteered by people like you to help
us operate. We could not offer the
quality of service in our parks that we do if it were not for all the help of
thanks again for your great questions. Our campgrounds at Pohick Bay, Bull Run and
Blue Ridge work well for Scout groups, and hope you and your troop are using
our facilities. We also have over 100
miles of trails, including the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail, and the W&OD.
wish you all the best in achieving your Eagle Scout status.
Financial "transparency" means both using the best standards in budgeting and finance, making those documents understandable to a non-expert reader, and making them open and available to the public.
The reason this is important boils down to public trust. As a public agency it is important that people can see and understand our financial information. At the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority we take this public trust very seriously.
We post our budgets and audits on-line for all to see:
We also have a record of winning top awards from the Government Financial Officers Association (GFOA) for both our audit (comprehensive financial report), and our budget. Above is an image of the latest letter I received from GFOA about our budget award.