Freeze Warning In Effect — A freeze warning is in effect from 2 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Friday while a frost advisory remains in effect until 9 a.m. today. [National Weather Service]
Toys for Tots is On — The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is taking part in the annual toys for tots campaign. Stations will accept donations through Dec. 12. This year, collection boxes will be placed outside the front door of every fire station each morning. Residents have until 8 p.m. to drop off today every day. [FCFRD]
Dump Your Pumpkins Elsewhere — The Fairfax County Park Authority is reminding residents that parks aren’t for pumpkins. Residents should not discard pumpkins at county parks. [Fairfax County Government]
Candidate Call for Reston Association Board — Three seats are open for the association’s Board of Directors. The month-long election is held every March. Positions for at-large director, Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District director, and North Point district director are open. [RA]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
The Herndon Town Council is considering a plan to double down on banning guns on town property.
If approved, the ban would restrict the possession, use, and transportation of any firearms on specified town-owned property, including parks and community centers. It would also apply to any public street, sidewalk, right-of-way, or public place specifically being used for an official town-sponsored event.
Some residents fired off on a similar ban in Fairfax County, which was passed nearly one year ago. Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and other neighboring jurisdictions also have similar ordinances.
As drafted, all violations would be classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. The ordinance does not apply to sworn or retired law enforcement officers, military personnel who are conducting official duties, historical re-enactors, private security hired by the town, and individuals who have a concealed handgun allowed through a valid concealed handgun permit.
Gov. Ralph Northam signed enabling legislation in April 2020 that allows local governments to ban guns on public property and public spaces. The move followed a gun rally in Richmond where thousands of gun owners gathered for a rally aimed to eliminate gun restrictions.
Town officials are wrestling with the best way to enforce the ban — if passed. Officials noted that the ban is only meaningful if it is enforceable in a consistent and effective manner.
An impact analysis by the town anticipates nearly $3 million in costs to amp up security in town buildings, install signs at town parks and trails and install magnetometers. An additional $744,600 is anticipated to staff magnetometers.
“If the goal of the firearms prohibition is to protect council, staff and the public from a firearms discharge on town property, then steps would be required to ensure security,” the impact analysis notes.
A public meeting is planned for today. The public hearing begins at 7 p.m. in the Herndon Council Chambers, which are located at 765 Lynn Street. Masks are required for all attendees and entrance to the council’s chambers will be controlled in order to ensure social distancing, according to town officials.
Community Raises Money for Family of Hit-and-Run Victim — A GoFundMe started on Friday (Sept. 3) by the sister of Reston resident Andrew Willingham, who was killed in a hit-and-run incident on Fairfax County Parkway last week, has received more than $257,000 as of 7:30 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday). The money will go toward helping Willingham’s wife and two sons with expenses, including a future college fund. [Patch]
County Launches Data Hub for Reston Parks — “You can now access the latest information on urban parks and athletic fields associated with redevelopment in the Reston Transit Station Areas through the new Urban Parks Activity Hub. The new online hub is one of three components of the Reston Data Visualization project created by the Department of Planning and Development in coordination with the Park Authority.” [Fairfax County Government]
Herndon Police Chief With Rare State Award — “Chief [Maggie] DeBoard and Executive Director Dana Schrad were recognized by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation with the 2021 Outstanding Contribution to Law Enforcement Award…This award recognizes an individual’s conspicuous act or achievement in the performance of their duty that results in an exceptional and responsible contribution to the law enforcement profession here in VA.” [Herndon Police/Twitter]
Reston Contractor CEO Recalls Company’s 9/11 Origins — Reston-based defense technology contractor EverWatch Corp. CEO John Hillen says his life “is very oddly wrapped up with 9/11.” His experience in downtown New York City on Sept. 11, 2001 propelled him from Wall Street to the State Department under the George W. Bush administration, and his company now provides tools for defense missions that directly stem from the attacks. [Washington Business Journal]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Virginia PTA Official Resigns after Fairfax County Rally — Virginia Parent Teacher Association Vice President of Training Michelle Leete resigned Saturday (July 17) after drawing heat for her speech at a rally in support of transgender students before the Fairfax County School Board’s meeting on July 15. Leete is also a leader of the Fairfax County NAACP, which said in a statement yesterday (Sunday) that it stands “firmly” by her and that her remarks have been taken out of context. [The Washington Post]
Man Arrested for Reston Town Center Carjacking — Last Wednesday (July 14), Fairfax County patrol officers found a stolen car in the parking lot of Kohl’s in Herndon and arrested the man inside, charging him with grand larceny, possession of stolen items, and two drug-related charges. Police believe he was also responsible for a carjacking that occurred in Reston Town Center on June 12. [FCPD]
Gerry Connolly Trail Partially Closes Starting Today — “The Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail will be closed between mile markers 3.2 and 3.8 in the Difficult Run Stream Valley Park from Monday, July 19 through Friday, Aug. 6, 2021…The closure of this section of trail north of Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) will allow crews to perform maintenance on the Potomac Interceptor sanitary sewer.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Reston Kindergartener Awarded Grant — The Reston Accessibility Committee awarded a grant through its Financial Aid Outreach Program to a Reston kindergarten student with special needs. The grant will help the student’s family purchase sensory toys for a home-based therapeutic program. It’s the third grant that RAC has distributed as part of the program. [RAC]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Cicadas Light Up Local Weather Radar — Weather radars in the D.C. area, including one in Sterling, have been picked up a lot of activity in recent days that the National Weather Service believes stem from insects, including the Brood X cicadas that have been making noise around the region since early May. [Capital Weather Gang]
Connolly Cross Country Trail to Partially Close — “Starting on Monday, June 21 and continuing through July 9, 2021, the Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail will be closed between mile markers 3.2 and 3.8 in the Difficult Run Stream Valley Park north of Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) while crews perform maintenance on the Potomac Interceptor sanitary sewer. Signs and barricades will be in place to alert the public.” [Route 7 Corridor Improvements/VDOT]
Reston Chamber Hosts Valor Awards — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, which is serving as host for the first time after taking over from the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, announced the recipients of the 43rd annual Fairfax County Valor Awards yesterday (Tuesday). The awards recognize heroic acts by first responders from the county’s public safety agencies as well as the Town of Vienna Police Department and Virginia State Police. [Patch]
Metrobus Service Will Expand This Weekend — Starting Sunday (June 6), Metrobus will operate late-night service to 2 a.m. every day of the week on 36 of its busiest routes. There will also be more frequent service and restored service on more than 60 routes, bringing bus service to approximately 85% of pre-pandemic levels. [WMATA]
Independence Day Fireworks Coming to Lake Fairfax — “In honor of the nation’s Independence Day, Lake Fairfax will once again host a fireworks display. The event will take place on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Preregistration and capacity limits will be in place. Details will be posted as they become available on the Lake Fairfax Park website.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Chandon Park Playground to Be Replaced — Demolition and construction work has started on the playground at Chandon Park in Herndon. Expected to finish by July 31, the $140,000 project will introduce new equipment, subsurface drainage, and other upgrades to replace the playground, which was originally installed in the 1990s and no longer meets current safety guidelines. [Fairfax County Park Authority]
CACI Joins Fortune 500 List — For the first time in its history, CACI International was named a Fortune 500 company, an annual ranking of the biggest companies in the country based on revenue. Previously based in Arlington, the defense contractor officially opened its new corporate headquarters in Reston on May 28. [Business Wire]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
County Board Discusses Impact of Telework on Hiring — “After companies in the county have spent more than a year with much of their workforces teleworking — and with county office vacancy rates hovering at 14.6% in 2020, the highest rate in two years — Fairfax Board Chairman Jeffrey McKay asked the Fairfax County EDA whether the number of tech vacancies could lead companies to pivot to recruiting remote workers and what the ripple effects would be.” [Washington Business Journal]
Metro Waives Special Events Fee — Metro’s Board of Directors approved a temporary policy yesterday (Thursday) waiving the $100,000 per hour fee normally charged to large-scale event organizers to keep stations open past standard closing hours. The waiver will apply for professional sports games and other approved special events through Dec. 31. [WMATA]
Suffragist Memorial Dedication on Sunday — The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial will be dedicated at Occoquan Regional Park in Lorton at 2 p.m. on Sunday (May 16). It is the first memorial in the U.S. devoted to the women’s suffrage movement. The ceremony, which will be live-streamed, was originally scheduled for Aug. 26, 2020 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification but got postponed due to the pandemic. [Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association]
Colvin Run Mill and Frying Pan Recognized — The National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials named Colvin Run Mill in Great Falls and the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon among the winners of its 2021 NACPRO Awards. The Colvin Run Miller’s House Exhibit won the Historical or Cultural Facility category, and the Friends of Frying Pan won the Outstanding Support Organization category. [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
In the 210 years since it was first built, the Colvin Run Mill has outlasted the industrial revolution, a civil war, and multiple pandemics. Now, it has the capacity to keep grinding grains for at least another 15 years, thanks to a new water wheel and flume.
The Fairfax County Park Authority completed its restoration in March — 45 days ahead of schedule — but the refurbished mill saw action for the first time Saturday morning (May 2), when the new wheel took its first turns to power the mill, which ground out some corn meal and grits to be sold at the nearby general store.
The parks officials and volunteers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the installation of the 20-foot-wide water wheel as the culmination of restoration efforts that stretch back to the 1970s, when the park authority first purchased the Colvin Run Mill with the goal of preserving it as a historic site.
“This celebration may mark the completion of this project, but we would be remiss if we did not recognize today’s reopening of the flume as yet another step and progression in historic restoration and preservation,” Tim Hackman, who represents Dranesville District on the FCPA board of directors, said. “It is our mission and our duty, but it is also our privilege.”
Approved by the FCPA board in May 2020, the project involved the demolition and replacement of the existing wooden wheel and flume, which had started to deteriorate. It was funded by $382,000 in park bonds and is expected to cut down maintenance costs by about $6,000 per year.
Even with the need to follow COVID-19 health protocols and work around ongoing construction on Route 7, project manager Heather Lynch says the project turned out to be “very straightforward,” benefitting from a winter largely free of storms and fortuitous timing with the availability of the right wood for the job.
That luck with timing has continued through the project’s completion, which comes amid an ebb in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We anticipate getting a lot more people out, because it’s a wonderful COVID-safe, family-safe activity,” Acting FCPA Executive Director Sara Baldwin said. “We take all the precautions here as well.”
The park authority is currently letting just one group into the mill at a time, and timed tickets will be sold in advance for grinding demonstrations, which take place on the first and third Sunday of every month.
However, the county is able to bring back a full slate of summer classes and programs to Colvin Run Mill and its other parks. Registration for all activities is now underway.
Gene Bacher, a Friends of Colvin Run Mill volunteer and board member, says he’s especially looking forward to the return of the site’s simple machines field trip program, which gives students the chance to learn about the engineering behind levers, pulleys, and other machines and to see a real-life example.
The program was canceled last year due to the pandemic, and school or mixed-group field trips remain suspended for now, though Colvin Run Mill is allowing some closed-group, private field trips.
“It’ll be reinstated as soon as the pandemic is done and kids get back into school, so having the mill work properly is important to that whole process of getting the kids in here to see what the simple machines are doing,” Bacher said. “…That program is one of the life bloods of the mill property.”
Reston Contractor to Develop National COVID-19 Hotline — “Reston-based government services company Maximus has received a potential $951 million contract to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 national surge support and vaccine assistance hotline.” [Virginia Business]
Reston Farmers Market Opens to Crowds — Reston Farmers Market opened for the spring on Saturday (May 2) “to brisk business” at Lake Anne Village Center. Even with most COVID-19 health protocols still in place, at least 1,900 customers attended, up from 809 customers on the first day of the 2020 season, according to founder John Lovaas. [Patch]
Local Band Teacher Dies — Coates Elementary School Principal Jesse Kraft announced yesterday (Monday) that Kelsey Burch, the school’s fifth and sixth-grade band teacher, had died after a year-long battle with cancer. Before joining Coates four years go, she led the band program at Sunrise Valley Elementary School in Reston for a decade. Sunrise Valley will name its band room in her honor. [Coates Elementary]
Fairfax County Parks Open Registration for Summer Classes — Registration for summer classes, events, and programs from the Fairfax County Park Authority, including at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, begins today. Online registration is available, and spaces in each program are limited. [Friends of Frying Pan/Twitter]
Reston Hospital Named Among Top 100 in U.S. — “Reston Hospital Center has been named to the Fortune/IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals list. This is the first time Reston Hospital Center has been recognized with this honor as one of the top performing community hospitals in the U.S.” [Reston Hospital Center]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Monday, April 12
- Rock the Park (10-11:30 a.m.) — Find a new pet rock! Join NoVa Parks staff for a hike down to the stream at Potomac Overlook Regional Park to introduce yourself to a new rock friend. Then, paint it in whatever colors and designs you like. Afterward, search the nature center for more pet rocks hidden by staff.
Tuesday April 13
- Cicadas in Your Garden (7-8 p.m.) — Prepare your garden for Brood X. Adria Bordas, a horticulturalist with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, will help local gardeners prepare — and protect — their gardens from the millions of cicadas that are set to emerge in our area come May. This is a virtual event.
- RA Annual Meeting & Election Results (7 p.m.) — Join about 60,000 other Reston Association members for the organization’s annual meeting, which will be followed by the announcement of 2021 Board of Directors election results.
Wednesday, April 14
- Fundamentals of Falling (6-7 p.m.) — Learn how to take a fall safely while exercising. This course from Fairfax County Public Library and the Virginia Spine Institute will help you learn movement patterns and techniques to reduce the risk of injury when you inevitably fall while exercising.
Thursday, April 15
- Yoga with the Magnolias (5:30-6:30 p.m.) — Take a small, socially distant, in-person yoga class at Carlyle House Historic Park’s Magnolia Terrace in Alexandria. The class is limited to six students to ensure proper spacing. Find a gentle flow while peering into the beautiful scenery.
Friday, April 16
- World of BBQ (6 p.m.) — Hear James Beard Award-winning chef Rodney Scott talk about the secrets of barbeque in this virtual event hosted by Barnes and Noble and accessible via the store in the Mosaic District.
Saturday, April 17
- Pollinator Garden Dedication (10 a.m.) — Join in-person or virtually for the dedication ceremony of the new Margaret Kinder Education and Pollinator Garden at Lake Accotink Park. The pollinator garden has 800 plants of 14 varieties with a number of interpretive signs. Kinder, its namesake, is a county educator, naturalist, and a longtime volunteer at the park.
- Nature Kayaking (2-4 p.m.) — Paddle Lake Fairfax in a kayak with a Fairfax County Parks Authority naturalist. Learn about all the flora and fauna in the lake and what might be swimming underneath your kayak. A single kayak rental is included in the cost.
Sunday, April 18
- Bird Walk (7:30-10:30 a.m.) — Join fellow birders for an early morning walk around Bright Pond in Reston. A limited number of participants are allowed, and masks must be worn at all times.
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
The blooming, pink-tinged flowers have long served as a symbolic announcement of spring’s arrival in the D.C. area, but the sight might be especially welcome this year after a winter that proved challenging for reasons only partly related to the weather.
“It [always] gets quite busy here this time of the year,” Meadowlark park specialist Jeff Hill said. “But this year, there’s a slight edge of frenziness to it.”
Run by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks), Meadowlark is home to at least 60 to 80 cherry trees, a number of which are the same species as the ones at the Tidal Basin (Yoshino). The oldest ones were planted back in the late 1980s, while other cherry trees were planted more recently over the past several years.
Hill says that, particularly in the last four or five years, the trees have grown “exponentially in popularity.”
They are scattered throughout the 95-acre property, but mostly concentrated near the Visitor’s Center and down by the lakes.
According to Hill, the ones closer to the Visitor’s Center are already in bloom and are nearing their peak. The trees by the lakes just started to open earlier this week, so those blossoms should be nearing peak bloom as well by this weekend.
However, the recent cold weather could majorly impact them.
“Anything that’s in full bloom right now, will probably be affected the hardest,” Hill said. “Not only is it cold, they’ve been calling for pretty significant winds.”
However, he says that, since they haven’t fully opened up yet, the trees by the lakes “maybe able to skirt by” and remain on schedule to bloom come this weekend.
In terms of care, the staff at Meadowlark rarely interfere with the cherry trees aside from periodic pruning, monitoring for insects and fungi, and mulching.
“We try to leave things to be as natural as possible,” Hill says.
With the gardens expected to be very busy this weekend, Hill recommends visiting during the week if possible. Capacity limits are in effect, but since the grounds are so large, crowds should be minimized if people spread out.
“With the Tidal Basin so busy and popular, people are just looking for an alternative site,” Hill said. “[Meadowlark] is a great place because you have the water, you have the cherry trees…everything you need for a cherry blossom-style festival.”
Those trees date back to at least the early 1980s, according to the Reston Association, which does not own the trees, but occasionally prunes them to keep pathways clear.
The Van Gogh bridge was built in 1965 to link the Waterview and Washington Plaza clusters. It was designed by William Roehl, who also designed the nearby Swing.
Virginia to Get Its Own Voting Rights Act — Democrats in the state’s General Assembly have passed their own version of a voting rights act. The move creates broad new protections against voter discrimination. [Virginia Mercy]
COVID-19 Deaths Top 10,000 — The state has surpassed 10,000 deaths associated with COVID-19. This past Sunday was designed as a day of prayer and remembrance to honor Virginians who died from the novel coronavirus. [Reston Patch]
Reston Association Parks and Recreation Committee Under Reform — The advisory committee is seeking members for the association’s committee. Members will be selected by the Board of Directors. [RA]
County Launches Survey on Strategic Plan — After a year-long hiatus, the county is resuming work on its strategic plan. A survey on the proposal is online. [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
The cicadas are coming.
17 years after their last appearance, swarms of cicadas known collectively as periodical cicada Brood X are preparing to stage a sequel this spring, with the D.C. area as the epicenter of a natural phenomenon that will encompass 15 states across the eastern and midwestern U.S.
Tammy Schwab, a naturalist and education and outreach manager for the Fairfax County Park Authority, says the insects are expected to emerge in the county around the middle of May, when the ground temperature reaches about 64 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Cicadas are special because of their extremely long life cycle,” Schwab told Tysons Reporter by email. “Cicadas spend 2-17 years as a larva underground feeding on the roots of trees. Most other insects have much shorter life spans.”
According to the National Wildlife Federation, adult periodical cicadas are black with orange underneath. They are just over an inch in length and boast clear, “membranous,” black-veined wings that span three inches across.
These cicadas are different from annual cicadas, which live underground for two to five years before emerging as adults, typically between May and September. Because their life cycles aren’t as closely synchronized as periodical cicadas, some annual cicadas appear every year.
Fairfax County last saw Brood X — one of 15 periodical cicada broods in the U.S. — at the scale anticipated this spring in 2004, but a handful of the insects were spotted locally in 2017.
“As part of the cicada survival strategy some of each brood can emerge between 1 and 4 years early in case some catastrophe were to destroy all the cicadas in a given emergence,” Schwab explained.
They're coming! This is the year of the 17-year cicada in our area. There will be trillions of them in early summer. They are harmless. They are loud. They are high in protein, if you're into that. They don't social distance. It's a phenomenon of nature to be enjoyed. Can't wait! pic.twitter.com/WR5qWCXq3m
— Fairfax County Parks (@fairfaxparks) March 4, 2021
In comparison, Schwab says “millions” of cicadas could blanket the D.C. region this year, though the numbers could vary across different areas depending on how much land development has occurred over the past 17 years.
Both adult and larval cicadas depend on trees for food, so they tend to be more prevalent in forested areas. However, people in more developed residential neighborhoods might notice them sooner, since the ground warms more quickly in open spaces than in the woods, according to Schwab.
She says the loss of tree cover to development “will definitely decrease populations,” but reforestation prior to an emergence could result in an increase. Fairfax County had stream bank stabilization projects at Snakeden Branch in Reston, Difficult Run in Oakton, Accotink Creek, and Cinnamon Creek in the Wolf Trap area in 2003, the year before Brood X’s last emergence.
“It would be very interesting to see if these project areas had any effect on the population,” Schwab said.
While the appearance of millions of loud, winged insects may sound alarming, cicadas are harmless for humans. The most notable impact will be on newly planted trees, which can be damaged by cicada egg laying.
Schwab advises residents to wait until the fall before planting new trees or utilize insect netting to protect their branches.
She also says people should watch what their pets are eating.
“A few are not likely to hurt pets but too many could cause digestive issues,” Schwab said. “They are edible by people if you’re are brave enough to try it.”
Photo courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority
As temperatures climb this month, the Town of Herndon is encouraging residents to enjoy its parks and trails.
The town’s Parks and Recreation Department launched March Into Parks, an initiative that encourages residents to explore the town’s 11 parks and three trails.
‘Staff has put together physically distanced activities to help you explore and embrace our natural resources. A growing body of research points to the beneficial effects that exposure to the natural world has on health, reducing stress and promoting healing,’ the town wrote in a statement.
Town officials note that every home in the Town of Herndon is within a quarter-mile from a town park. For each week in the month of March, town staff have suggested several ideas and challenges.
Through March 7, residents are encouraged to find the rock tree on Folly Lick Trail. Between March 8 and 14, residents are challenged to cross the creek using stepping stones at Runnymede Park. Other challenges and options are listed on the town’s website.
A map of the town’s parks and trails is also available online.
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