Reston, VA

Given a quick glance, Great Falls Nike Park appears to be just baseball fields, a trail, and a parking lot near an elementary school just off Leesburg Pike in Herndon.

Visitors who take a closer look, however, might stumble across a small, odd dome-like structure mere feet from a parked Toyota — a remnant of the key role that the Fairfax County park played in protecting the nation’s capital from a potential Russian missile attack during the Cold War.

Located 1199 Utterback Store Road, Great Falls Nike Park is one of three Fairfax County parks that were once home to anti-aircraft missiles designed to bring down Russian projectiles aimed at D.C. landmarks. The other two sites can be found along Fairfax County Parkway and in Lorton.

“We felt Russia, and other countries, had the ability to potentially attack us,” David Buchta, heritage conservation branch manager for the Fairfax County Park Authority, said. “And these missile sites were specifically designed to keep that from happening. The [parks] are certainly an interesting relic of curiosity left over from Cold War times.”

Despite the recent end of one war, the world hovered on the brink of another in the mid-20th century. The Cold War was a time of tension, particularly between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the federal government felt like they needed to protect D.C. from attack.

So, the government acquired land around the city to set up sites for their anti-aircraft missile launch systems. They were christened NIKE sites after the Greek goddess of victory.

Due to the abundance of rural land available at the time, Fairfax County became the site for three of these military installations, which all opened between 1953 and 1955.

“The idea was to create a ring of defense,” Buchta said. “The range of the missiles was pretty limited, but it was enough that we could protect the entire corridor of D.C. out to the Atlantic Ocean.”

Straddling the Herndon and Great Falls border, the Great Falls site sat on land that was owned by dairy farmer Mark Turner before the government acquired it by exercising eminent domain. Another site cropped up off of Fairfax County Parkway at what is now Pope’s Head Park. The third and largest site was on land that was part of the Lorton Prison Complex.

Each of them consisted of a launch area and a control area that was located one to three miles downrange.

For the Herndon site, the control area was on Turner Farm, while the missile launch area was about a 1.5 miles west along Utterback Road.

The Herndon and Fairfax sites were smaller and very similar to one another, but a historical report produced by Fairfax County describes the Lorton missile site as a “double site” that served as “a national showpiece” for the NIKE program. In 1958, the missiles in Lorton were even upgraded to include nuclear warheads.

The Herndon site also boasted a special feature: a radar dome, a repeating structure that was intended to be reflective and bounce signals to another location, Buchta says. Read More

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Developers broke ground yesterday (Wednesday) on a much-discussed new senior living community in Great Falls.

Slated to open in the summer of 2022, The Residence of Colvin Run at 1131 Walker Road will be a 53,000 square-foot facility set on 2.8 acres. It’s about a half-mile from the Colvin Run Mill historic site.

The senior living facility will offer 62 single and double occupancy units for adults 65 and older. That includes 44 assisted living apartments and 18 memory care residences.

Amenities will include an art studio, a theater designed for the hearing-impaired, several dining venues, an open-hearth brick oven, and a trail connecting to neighborhood businesses.

In terms of staffing, about 60 employees are expected to be on payroll, operator IntegraCare tells Reston Now.

Renderings depict an architecture that seems similar to a small cottage or a Craftsman-style look with lots of brick and wood.

Senior living facilities of this nature are becoming more in demand as the area’s population ages. In opening remarks, it was noted that nearly 34% of the Great Falls population is over 55 years old.

“In our experiences, we’ve found that seniors want to continue to live in the communities that they raised their families in,” IntegraCare CEO Larry Rouvelas said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “The need to build senior housing communities in the specific neighborhoods that people grew up in is an important part of their quality of life.”

IntegraCare also operates a senior living facility in Hunters Woods on Colt Neck Road.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has been a consistent supporter of the project, stating that the development fulfills three of his goals for the district and Fairfax County at large.

“First of all, we’re very interested in economic development. This is a business. Secondly, we have a large population that’s aging, and this is a fantastic facility for them to age,” Foust said. “And third, from a land-use standpoint, it’s a beautiful building that’s going to fit into the character of Great Falls and make it even better.”

He also emphasized the concept of “placemaking,” as in providing amenities and creating a community that attracts companies and a workforce.

“It used to be that you built a factory and people came to that factory to work. Today, we build a community that people want to live in. The [workforce] comes to you and the employers come to them,” Foust said.

Foust also believes a greater supply of senior living options will be needed throughout Fairfax County in the future, since the county as a whole is getting older.

According to the county’s latest demographic information, about 14% of county residents — or 164,000 people — are 65 years old or older.

By 2025, that number is expected to tick up by 30,000 people and encompass 16% of the county’s total population. In 2035, as much as 17.5% of county residents — a total of 226,000 people — could be 65 or older.

“The aging of the population has created a need. Fortunately, we have developments like this one to try to meet that demand,” Foust said. “But demand right now far exceeds any supply that we’ve been able to create. So, it’s great to see this type of development occurring across the county for the foreseeable future.”

Construction on The Residence of Colvin Run is expected to take 15 months, with an additional two months for permitting. That puts the opening somewhere between July and September of 2022.

Work on the facility’s footings and foundations will commence in about a month, and then, in about three months, residents and passersby will see a steel frame being erected. The exterior skin will go on after that.

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The refurbishment of Colvin Run Mill in Great Falls is an ongoing project, but a major focus of the site will be ready to be unveiled in just a matter of a few months.

The mill’s 20-foot diameter water wheel and flume are currently being demolished and replaced. The project completion date is estimated to be the end of spring or in early summer.

The completion should be “just in time for the year’s first grind,” according to Heather Lynch, the county’s project manager.

Preregistered, socially distanced tours and classes are still available during the wheel and flume replacement.

The Fairfax County Park Authority’s board originally approved this project on late May last year. The project was recommended to the board based on observed deterioration of the wooden wheel that operates the circa 1811 mill and the wooden flume that carries water to the wheel.

It comes on the heels of a restoration effort in 2014 and 2015 to “fully implement the original automated mill design the in accordance with the methods developed by Oliver Evans in his Young Mill-wright and Miller’s Guide,” according to the FCPA’s submitted agenda when the project was approved. A new shaft for the mill wheel was also installed during this restoration project.

The cost for the project was $382,000, while a staff member estimates the annual maintenance cost will be cut by $6,000 per year. The estimated lifespan of the new wheel is 15 years.

Photo courtesy Dan Dyke

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Reston Association to Host Second Meeting on Lake Health — In a letter to its members, RA CEO Hank Lynch and Board of Directors President Julie Bitzer said next year’s budget will includ funding for lake treatment. A meeting to followup on lake health and management plans is set for October. [Reston Association]

High Honors for Rotary of Great Falls — “Rotary District 7610 recently named the Rotary of Great Falls as one of its top achievers for 2019-2020. The club was honored in several categories. It received plaudits for several youth projects, including sponsoring two teenagers for Rotary’s Leadership Institute.” [The Connection]

Current State of Pandemic in County — Fairfax Health Director Gloria Addo-Ayensu encourages residents to continue practicing social distancing in order to limit the spread of the pandemic. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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With the prevalence of COVID-19 and an upcoming flu season, local pharmacies are now offering the flu vaccine to preemptively reduce the number of flu cases and ease the burden on the healthcare system.    

“The convergence of COVID-19 and flu season means that flu vaccinations are critical to reduce the overall burden of respiratory illnesses on the healthcare system and help protect communities,” said Kevin Ban, M.D., the Chief Medical Officer of Walgreens, in a press release

Giant Food is now offering the flu shot with no appointment necessary. They recommend that customers fill out their vaccine consent form before coming in to save time. 

“COVID-19 has presented challenges that we have not encountered before, and medical professionals around the world advise that getting the annual your flu shot is of vital importance to your health and wellness during this global pandemic,” said Paul Zvaleny, the Giant Food Director of Pharmacy Operations, in a press release.  

Safeway is also offering flu shots for free with most insurances. 

Here are some of the local grocery store pharmacies offering the vaccine:

  • Giant: 1450 North Point Village Center, Reston
  • Safeway: 11120 S Lakes Dr., Reston 
  • Safeway: 2304 Hunter’s Woods Plaza, Reston
  • Safeway: 413 Elden St., Herndon
  • Safeway: 9881 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls

The grocery stores, in addition to Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, are offering the flu shot for free with most insurances. 

“Throughout the pandemic, Walgreens continues to make the health and safety of its team members and customers a top priority,” said Dr. Ban in the release. “We want our patients to know that we are there to help them and are taking precautions necessary to keep our communities safe.”

Photo by the CDC via Unsplash

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Fairfax County police say a 64-year-old man died in a crash involving two vehicles in Great Falls yesterday.

The crash happened shortly before 5 p.m. in the 700 block of Walker Road — near the Great Falls Elementary School and Arnon Cemetery.

“A preliminary investigation determined the Ford F350 was traveling eastbound on Walker Road when it crossed over the double yellow, left the roadway and struck the Dodge Ram that tried to avoid the crash,” police said. “Subsequently, the Ford F350 struck a utility pole and overturned back onto the roadway.”

Police said today that Billy White, the driver of the Ford, died at the scene. The driver of the Dodge Ram was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Detectives are investigating the crash. They do not believe alcohol was a factor, but are looking into whether speed or a medical emergency contributed to the crash, police said.

Anyone with information about the crash can contact the Crash Reconstruction Unit at 703-280-0543.

Image via Google Maps

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To slow the spread of COVID-19, the National Park Service closed the parking lots around Great Falls Park.

As of yesterday (April 6), people cannot to use the lots, the public bathrooms or water fountains at the park (9200 Old Dominion Drive), according to a press release. It is unclear if street parking will still be allowed.

The lot closure comes after parking filled up during weekends in March, Patch reported.

Instead, people are expected to find other parking arrangements where they can obey the 6-foot social distancing guidelines if they choose to go hiking.

According to a state mandate, people can only leave their homes for essential purposes such as shopping for necessities, seeking medical attention or socially-distanced outdoor exercise.

For people who want to stay home, Reston Now complied a list of other ways they can still stay active and fit.

Photo via NPS/Facebook

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Capital One is closing 37 branches across the country, including seven locations in the DC-area.

The Great Falls location is at 9863 Georgetown Pike in Great Falls Center.

The McLean-based banking giant is responding to changes in customer preferences, according to company officials.

Here’s more from the Washington Business Journal on the closures:

The bank is simply responding to changing customer preferences on how they manage their money, according to Capital One spokesman Derek Conrad, who noted the entire banking industry is being re-shaped to meet new digital demands — with Capital One balancing digital and in-person options.

“Our customers are increasingly engaging with us digitally. We continue to see steady growth in mobile banking, online banking, enhanced ATMs, remote deposit capture, etc., however, we know that many customers still value some physical presence to provide assurance, advice, and the ability to facilitate and support some transactions. We do too. Our goal is to deliver a compelling and optimal customer experience across all channels, not just one,” Conrad said in a statement.

Conrad also said the bank is working to make sure its digital evolution doesn’t inadvertently leave someone behind, and that it will continue to focus on bridging digital barriers to make sure people have access to online banking.

Locations in sterling (45545 Dulles Eastern Plaza) and Centreville (5613 Stone Road) are also set too close.

Photo via Capital One/Facebook

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Great Falls has taken a tiny hit in Bloomberg’s annual index of the richest place in the D.C. area.

The community ranks #20 on the list, down from #16 last year. Great Falls has an average household income of $311,255. Still, the average income of Great Falls rose by 2.7 percent over last year.

Bloomberg’s list is based on average household income and only includes places with at least 2,000 households.

The list includes nine places in the DC area as the richest places in America. McLean ranked 30th on the list, with an average household income of $292,323.

Although Virginia only has a few spots on the list, Maryland ranks sixth among states with six places that made it on the list. Unsurprisingly, Silicon Valley area towns nabbed three of the top five spots.

File photo

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Finn Thai plans on expanding from its original location in Reston to Great Falls.

The restaurant, which serves traditional cuisine from South East Asia, will take over the space currently occupied by Wild Ginger, according to Finn Thai’s owner Willy Chaokrajang. 

Currently, the new Finn Thai location is waiting for approval to serve wine and beer at 752 Walker Road, Suite A.

The eatery is expected to open in February, Chaokrajang said, adding that the location was chosen because he thinks it will be convenient for customers.

“The menu will be similar to what we have in Reston,” he added. 

Currently, the restaurant has three other locations scattered throughout the D.C. area.

Photo via Finn Thai/Facebook

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A two-car crash along Springvale Road has sent one person to the hospital with minor injuries and caused the road to close.

Fairfax County sent out an alert about the crash and road closure near the intersection of Parkerhouse Drive at 9:46 a.m. today (Friday).

Sgt. James Curry, a police spokesperson, told Reston Now that one person was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The road is currently closed in both directions, Curry said that it is expected to reopen soon.

Image via Google Maps 

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Great Falls Library has reopened after a one-day closure yesterday (Thursday).

According to Fairfax County’s website, the library was closed due to lack of heat. Normal operations have now resumed.

The library is open today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located at 9830 Georgetown Pike in Great Falls.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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The new owners of Normandy Farm in Great Falls want to expand the current equestrian center on the property — with permission from Fairfax County.

The Youngkin family bought parts of the Normandy Farms property (681 Rossmore Court) in 2015 and 2019 before applying for the roughly 31 acres of land to be reclassified as an agricultural and forest district.

The family claims the land has no historical significance for the area but they hope to preserve the nine acres of forest on the property and enhance equestrian infrastructure on the property.

The land includes barns, indoor and outdoor riding arenas, boarding and training facilities, horse pastures, meadows and a pond, which is home to Canadian geese, a blue heron and turtles, according to county documents. The documents also noted that the family plans to maintain the natural importance of the land.

“The proposed application is in conformance with plan goals of preserving the rural character of this environmentally sensitive area,” the application said.

The Youngkin family requested a public hearing with the Fairfax County Agricultural and Forestal District Advisory Board and the Fairfax County Planning Commission to review their application, according to the documents, which likely won’t happen before spring 2020.

The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to consider the application in February.

Image via Google Maps

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A ribbon-cutting ceremony will celebrate the completion of the Georgetown Pike Trail next week.

The new 4.2-mile-long pedestrian trail will allow passers-by to travel from River Bend Road westward to Seneca Road in Great Falls.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and other Fairfax County officials will be on-site at the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Falls Bridge Lane at 11 a.m. to announce the completion of the project, according to a press release.

All community members are welcome to attend the free event.

The project began in 2001 and was completed in four parts, according to Fairfax County.

Image via Fairfax County

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A new restaurant that pairs grilled cheese and wine is expected to open soon in Great Falls.

Bites Wine and Grilled Cheese Bar plans to open a 2,064-square-foot restaurant at the recently redeveloped Great Falls Center in mid-November, a restaurant representative told Reston Now.

The Leesburg-based restaurant, which opened in late 2017, pairs grilled cheese and wine.

Photo by Jay Westcott

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