Doing It Right — Reflections on FY 2013

Welcome to Our Parks

Park Board Chairman, William G. BouieThe Fairfax County Park system offers a wide array of recreational opportunities for the residents of this community, provides multiple venues for competitive sports such as youth and adult soccer, football, and swimming, as well as cross country running and cricket. Hundreds of thousands of individuals come to our parks and facilities on an annual basis. Clearly, we are an important part of your lives. And for that we are grateful.

Our dual mission also mandates our stewardship of natural and cultural resources, and to that end we continue to make good progress. A new Natural Resource Management Plan will help us fulfill the other half of our mission to be good stewards of the land and protect and preserve our natural resources. Our invasive management programs as well as our recent work to help our lands heal and acknowledge the importance and value of our natural capital are all a tremendous step in the right direction.

We are pleased that so many people want to make us an integral part of the quality of life in Fairfax County. And although this presents many, many challenges, we feel that we are up to the challenge and doing it right. That may be a lofty claim but it is supported by our re-accreditation from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA). This designation ensures that an agency has met national standards considered important to quality operations. You can read further details about this tremendous accomplishment elsewhere in this annual report.

Doing it right means not just getting the basics in place such as friendly and efficient customer service at our RECenters, its going that extra mile at our golf courses to ensure that you enjoy your experience on the greens. It’s ensuring that your children’s experience at summer camp will be safe, fun, and filled with adventure. It’s making certain that our community concert series go off without a hitch at dozens of locations each weekend during the summer. From free fireworks for the community, to walks in the woods, astronomy and scout programs at our nature centers and lakefront parks or historic re-enactments, the Park Authority is committed to serving the residents of Fairfax County.

As Chairman of the Park Authority Board I remain optimistic and although there will certainly be challenges ahead, I believe we are well positioned to move into the future boldly. Look for new leadership to move us forward. Expect the staff to begin implementation of our recently adopted Strategic Plan. Participate in our approaching Needs Assessment and get ready for more evidence of what it takes to do it right.

Personally, I invite you to get involved. Come to a Park Board meeting. We welcome your comments. Go to a neighborhood park and enjoy or get involved as a volunteer. Perhaps you would prefer to simply donate to the Park Foundation or join a Friends group. That’s fine too. These parks belong to you and you can make a positive impact our park system.

Let’s embrace the possibilities as we move forward into a new year.

Best wishes,
William Bouie, Chairman Park Authority Board

From the Desk of the Acting Director

Cindy MessingerI have had the privilege of serving the residents of Fairfax County at the Park Authority for more than 33 years and during that entire time, I found the work to be extremely fulfilling. Whether I was working at poolside or managing a park; running the Park Services Division, the Resource Management Division, or being the Deputy/Chief Operating Officer the work has always been captivating and a true labor of love. I believe with all my heart that this community is well-served by a dedicated cadre of Park Authority employees and a talented, innovative volunteer Park Authority Board. In good conscience I can truly attest that parks make a difference in the quality of life for our residents as I’ve witnessed it time and time again. Certainly in my present leadership role, I have gained a whole new perspective and a far greater understanding of the complexity of this organization, as well as the broad array of topics that cross the director’s desk but all in all, we have to return to our primary mission: sustaining the provision of recreational opportunities and the protection of our natural and cultural resources.

With that mission in mind we have worked very hard to put in place the tools we need to provide first class services and programs, to address the needs of our natural capital and the ethos of stewardship, to protect those precious last vestiges of open space and to provide world class facilities such as synthetic turf fields, updated RECenters, challenging golf courses and skate parks, modern and safe equestrian facilities and accessible trails and playgrounds. Despite an ambitious capital improvement program and commitment to renovation, there is still much work to be done.

And it’s not only my opinion that we offer among the best services in the country; it’s proven in our national accreditation and receipt of Gold Medal honors, in our receipt of competitive grants and awards, retention of employees and customers and high passage rates for voter-approved park bonds.

Over the past year and into the future you will hear about some of our recently completed plans, or reports and surveys that are currently in the works. For example, the newly adopted Strategic Plan looks five years into the future and provides guidance in several topical “big picture” areas. Plan implementation is underway and will guide us in moving forward. Our Needs Assessment will help us to better understand the desires of the community and set the stage for future capital improvement programs. One of our priorities is to improve upon citizen engagement and we plan to work harder to find out what our customers want today, who they are, what barriers and diversity issues exist and how we can better serve them. Our Financial Sustainability Plan will assist the Park Board and the staff in finding the right balance between programs that are either financed through tax dollars or subsidized by our Revenue Fund operations and fee-based programs. The challenge to maintain programs that do not cover costs becomes ever larger as General Fund support diminishes and the backlog of capital needs continues to build. Working closely with the county will be critical to our success.

Our commitment to the environment has never been stronger. We are now putting into action elements of past Natural Resource Management Plans as well as finalizing a new plan that goes that next step and recognizes natural capital as a resource worthy of protection. The plan, now nearing adoption is a testament to the professional staff we have in the Resource Management Division as well as a firm understanding by the Park Board that although trails, ball fields and playgrounds are important, we must also appropriately manage our more than 23,000 acres of open space and woodlands.

A new director will arrive shortly and I am certain that Kirk Kincannon, a Fairfax County native has the passion, intellect and integrity to lead this agency into the future. We have extraordinary people in key positions throughout the Park Authority, and although many will be retiring after long careers, succession planning and transferring that critical knowledge and history will make this transition seamless. Focusing on hiring vibrant workers to replace those leaving and investing in the existing staff by providing them with the skills and knowledge to succeed must be a focus to ensure our continued success and relevancy.

I would be negligent if I did not mention the many partners, volunteers and Friends organizations which help support the Park Authority. Our partners, including the Park Foundation, the elected officials at the local level up to Congress, as well as those willing to spend a day cleaning our waterways or pulling weeds. Each partnership brings a vital energy to our organization that builds community and awareness of being good stewards and simply giving back. We appreciate your time and talent. Over 210,000 hours of volunteer service was provided in the past fiscal year, valued at $4.4 million in dollars, and so much more in accomplishment.

Annual reports are limited by their very nature. Such is true with this one as well in that we can only tell part of the story; share only some of the details. So I close by reiterating how proud I am of this organization and what an honor it has been to be part of. The people may change, but the resources we have gathered stand as a legacy to be enjoyed well into the future. 

Sincerely,
Cindy Messinger, Acting Director

Doing It Right – Volunteer Leaders at the Helm

Fairfax County Park Authority Board

The Fairfax County Park Authority Board is appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.  These 12 appointees are comprised of one representative from each of the nine magisterial districts, plus three at-large members.  The board sets policy and establishes priorities for the park agency.  The board holds public meetings on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 7:30 p.m. at park headquarters in the Herrity Building, adjacent the Government Center.

Park  Authority Board

Current Park Authority Board officers are:

  • Chairman William G. Bouie, who is completing his fifth term as Chairman and represents the Hunter Mill District
  • Kala Leggett Quintana, an At-large Member of the Park Board who serves as Secretary
  • Providence District Representative Ken Quincy serving as Board Treasurer

Other members of the Park Board include:

  • Edward R. Batten, Sr., Lee District Representative
  • Mary D. Cortina, At-large Member
  • Linwood Gorham, Mount Vernon District Representative
  • Faisal Khan, At-large Member
  • Harold L. Strickland, Sully District Representative
  • Richard C. (Rip) Sullivan, Jr., Dranesville District Representative
  • Michael W. Thompson, Jr., Springfield District Representative
  • Frank S. Vajda, Mason District Representative
  • Anthony Vellucci, Braddock District Representative

You can locate biographical information about each member, find out about current and past agendas, view archived materials and read about the Park Authority vision and mission at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/board.

Doing It Right – A Glance into the Crystal Ball

There are often projects and items that transcend the timing of any published document.  Here are a few items worthy of a preview:

Perhaps the biggest change coming to the Park Authority in early 2014 will be the arrival of a new director.  On November 19, 2013, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors confirmed the appointment of Kirk W. Kincannon as director of the Park Authority.  Kincannon was selected by the Park Authority Board earlier that month.  He will join the staff in late January. 

Kirk KincannonKincannon, speaking with the Sun Gazette Newspaper said of his new job, “It will provide some great challenges,” adding, “It brings me back home and it also lets me contribute back to the community that really gave me my start.”

Most recently, Kincannon served as the director of parks and recreation for the City of Boulder, Colorado.  He served in that position since 2009, where he oversaw a staff of 1,000.  During his tenure he developed two Strategic Plans and implemented both.  One plan focused on improvements to park planning processes and the second realigned the agency.

Kincannon worked previously at Park Authority RECenters, and also worked for seven years as manager of Lake Accotink Park.  After this local service he worked as director of parks, recreation and tourism for five years in Wytheville, Virginia.  In 2000 he began as deputy director of parks, natural resources and capital projects with the City of Alexandria, Virginia.  He ascended to the director’s position in 2004. 

Overall Director Kincannon has demonstrated success in managing a variety of budgets, revenue producing services and facilities, strategic planning, community outreach, partnerships, expanding services to diverse communities, and has navigated multiple agencies through difficult economic times. He is hesitant to speak to any wholesale changes in the works at the Park Authority noting in published reports, “I’ll have to understand the full realm of the situation before making any calls.”

He is a native of Fairfax County and welcomes this opportunity to return to family and friends.

Natural Capital Defined

HOLH-logoLook for a new buzzword that will be a household word in the near future:  natural capital.  What is natural capital?  That’s difficult to really say as the term is still evolving; however, one definition worthy of consideration states, “….the elements of nature that produce value (directly and indirectly) to people.”

The natural capital management pilot project at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park has emerged complete with a brand identity that will hopefully resonate with those who embrace our environment.  It’s called Helping Our Land Heal: A Natural Capital Stewardship Model.  A logo was developed in-house and its inaugural push with tabletop activities for children was unveiled at the Park Authority booth at Celebrate Fairfax in June 2013.  You can find out more about this pilot program and our Natural Resource Management Plan online at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/resource-management/resources-nrp.htm

Needs Assessment Study to Serve as Foundation for Capital Improvement Plan

Another item that is bound to generate comment (let’s hope) and interesting data is the approaching Needs Assessment Study.  This study will determine countywide park and recreation needs and determine how best to meet those needs.  The last Needs Assessment was completed in 2004.  The Needs Assessment serves as the foundation for our ten-year capital improvement plan.

Staff will be evaluating proposals for completion of this project and selecting a consultant in early 2014.  As the project proceeds there will be timely updates, public outreach opportunities and survey results to report.  A final report including the Needs Assessment as well as the ten-year Capital Plan will be presented to the Park Board at the conclusion of the project.

Fiscal Sustainability Plan Projects Get Underway

There are five new capital projects either underway or being planned at this time which will bring new and improved state of the art services to our residents. These projects were originally identified in the Financial Sustainability Plan (FSP), approved by the Park Authority Board in December 2011. The FSP seeks to stabilize our business, our funds and to build a solid foundation of sustainability for the future. Achieving that goal will take a multi-year and multi-task approach but these first steps related to the Revenue Fund investment are considered to be a critical step forward.

Spring Hill RECenter The last new facility investment in the Revenue Fund was the development of the Cub Run RECenter which opened August 2006 and the expansion of the South Run RECenter fitness area September 2008. In order to ensure stability of the Revenue Fund, a long term program of investment must be established through the existing Capital Improvement Plan process that is supported by regular schedule of Park Bond Referendums.

The five Revenue Fund projects invest approximately $23 million of 2012 Park Bond Funds for existing facility expansions that have a projected annual net operating revenue return of $ 2.1 million by FY 2017.

Oak Marr RECenterThe projects include a fitness expansion at Oak Marr RECenter (targeted completion August 2014), fitness expansion at Spring Hill RECenter with the addition of an indoor gymnasium and running track (targeted completion February 2015), expansion of the clubhouse at Twin Lakes Golf Course (targeted completion February 2014), Clubhouse replacement and expansion of the driving range at Burke Lake Golf Course (targeted completion Spring 2016) as well as renovation and expansion to the Water Mine at Lake Fairfax Park (targeted completion May 2015).

Get ready for terrific new facilities with state-of-the-art amenities, expanding opportunities for banquets and golf outings as well as attractions for older children at the ever-popular Water Mine. It’s an exciting time at these facilities!

New Communication Channels Ensure That We Hear You

New  Communication ChannelsLook for continued innovation in terms of enhanced communications with the Park Authority.  Fresh efforts to more effectively engage the public will be prominent in the not too distant future with new engagement platforms that encourage you to join in the conversation on master plans or other park-related topics of interest.  Look for more tweets and Facebook posts as well as we ramp up to utilize all the tools in the toolbox.  We will be working collaboratively with Channel 16 and the Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs to use new video and audio options as well.

We also anticipate new community survey work that will help us to better understand customer concerns, needs, and desires.  And you can expect to see updates and customer friendly enhancements on our website that will help you transact business or get information.  Our mobile application is live as well!

There are opportunities to share your opinions on our blog as well as continuing opportunities to share your opinions at public meetings, outreach events, or online.  Find out how you can speak directly to the Park Board at each of their regular meetings by visiting http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/boardagn2.htm, or send us an email at Parkmail@fairfaxcounty.gov

Protecting the Natural World – A New NRMP Nears Completion

Natural Resource Management PlanPark Authority staff is currently revising the agency Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP) and after lengthy review with stakeholders, elected officials and the Park Authority Board a final draft is in the works and approval is anticipated in early 2014.  The plan proposed 25 actions arranged under four management themes which are considered to be both strategic and evergreen.

Having an NRMP is a policy requirement.  This plan provides direction to staff to incorporate natural resource management into all Park Authority functions and requires that the agency inventory, plan, protect, manage, educate, and build partnerships to ensure proper stewardship in support of the agency mission.

The Park Authority Board approved the first agency wide NRMP on January 14, 2004.  This plan built the foundation to fulfill the Park Authority stewardship mission and directed staff in the establishment of best practices.  Many of the recommended actions contained in this initial plan have already been completed.  There is a current need to revise this plan in order to update the actions and provide a new vision to move forward.  

 Recognizing the “Father” of the CCT

220px-ConnollyOn June 7, 2014, those who love trails will be out in force to mark National Trails Day®, as well as to celebrate the renaming of the Cross County Trail to the “Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail.”  This action, approved by the Park Board on June 12, 2013, will recognize the significant contributions Congressman Connolly made in ensuring the creation and completion of this 41-mile trail.

Connolly, then Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, provided tireless support for this community driven idea forwarded by Fairfax Trails and Streams.  He championed this multi-year, multi-phase, and multi-million dollar project.

The CCT is well-known and used by countless trail enthusiasts on foot, or bicycle, or horse.  Congressman Connolly noted at the time of the announcement, “I am truly humbled by this unexpected honor.  The Cross County Trail is one of my proudest accomplishments in public office.” 

Congressman Connolly added, “There are a lot of people who share this honor with me.  This project is a true example of what can happen when the local community, volunteers, and elected officials work together.”

More details on the renaming ceremony will be forthcoming.

World Police Games Planning Underway

World Police and Fire GamesIt’s official.  The World Police and Fire Games are coming to Fairfax County in 2015 and the Park Authority will host events at several venues.  The dates are June 26 through July 5 and thousands of spectators and athletes will be in town for the competition.  The games are an Olympic-style event held biennially throughout the world to promote friendly competition and international relationships among participants.

Sixty different sporting events will take place ranging from soccer and basketball to running, boxing, and events related to job performance by first responders.   For all the details visit www.fxva.com/wpfg.  

What’s Old Get’s New Life – Resident Curator Program

An implementation study supporting the establishment of a Resident Curator Program (RCP) in Fairfax County is underway. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed Park Authority and Department of Planning and Zoning staff to work with the Fairfax County History Commission to evaluate how a RCP would work in the county. The county has contracted with John Milner Associates, Inc. (JMA) to deliver a program implementation package identifying what it will take to execute and maintain a successful RCP in Fairfax County.  JMA began its work in early July 2013. The study is expected to be completed by May 2014.

Resident curator programs identify publicly-owned historic properties with no immediate or practical public use and through an open and competitive process, select outside parties with skills, resources and vision to rehabilitate a property in accordance with accepted preservation standards for historic buildings. In exchange for rehabilitating the property, the curator gains use of the property and pays little or no rent.

A program in Fairfax County would potentially provide a fiscally responsible means to put many of the county’s historic properties back into use.  Find out all the details online at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/plandev/resident-curator-program.htm