Reston, VA

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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Reston has been ranked as the number one place to work from home.

According to a recent ranking from Money magazine, Reston came on the top of a national list, which considers the cost of living, safety, education quality the number of residents working from home, access to necessities like daycares and pharmacies, and sufficient internet connection.

The magazine states that Reston was “practically designed with the remote employee in mind.”

The ranking comes as Americans across the country make the transition to remote work, transforming living rooms into work stations and closets into virtual classrooms.

According to a recent survey by Redfin, roughly 72 pe recent of homebuyers expects to continue working remotely after the pandemic winds down.

Here’s what Money had to say about Reston.

Built from the ground up in the 1960s, Reston is a planned residential community created to be a green suburb where families could live, play and work without having to rely on a car.

The census-designated place has 55 miles of paved pedestrian pathways and trails that connect the various neighborhoods and a majority of residents live within a 10 minute-walk of one of Reston’s 73 parks. It’s home to two golf courses and four man-made lakes perfect for fishing, boating, or lakeside picnics.

The city has one main town center and five village centers — one for each neighborhood. Residents boast about the endless food options they offer. Like Cafesano in South Reston, where you can enjoy a $14 steak kabob seated on a deck that overlook Lake Thoreau.

The city is no stranger to work-from-home families so it’s well-equipped to take care of your remote needs. Pre-pandemic, about 6.3% of Reston residents worked from home, compared to the national rate of 4.5%.

Nearly all households have an adequate internet connection by the BroadbandNow definition. But if you need access to an office, Washington D.C. is only a 33-minute drive away (or 45 minutes and $8 via public transportation). In the opposite direction, Washington-Dulles International Airport is only 15 minutes by car (or 20 minutes and $2 on the Fairfax Connector).

The community has a median home price of $434,000 and roughly 88 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Overall, a little over 3 percent of residents were working from home before the pandemic.

Other areas that ranked high on Money’s list include Naperville, Illinois., Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Roseville, California.

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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The county is seeking to gauge the public’s support for pickleball, a new and rapidly expanding paddleball sport that combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis.

The Fairfax County Park Authority has launched an online survey to gauge support for new pickleball activities. The survey is open through Jan. 24. County officials say they’ve received multiple requests to expand the number of pickleball facilities in its parks, recreation centers, and community centers.

The game was invented in 1965 by two dads in Washington who wanted to entertain their kids and use an old badminton court.

A feasibility study is underway on how to address the desire for the sport, identify sites for possible improvements or new facilities, and develop criteria and design guidance used for selecting and constructing pickleball amenities.

The parks at Stratton Woods and Stuart Road (12001 Lake Newport Road) have pickleball facilities. A map of other options available in the county is linked here. Reston Association’s tennis courts also offer some options for pickleball enthusiasts, who appear to be growing in number.

The county’s feasibility study will be completed by the spring of 2021. Currently, the county has 15 parks with either a tennis or basketball court lined for pickleball. Within these parks, there are 28 courts available to play the game.

Photo via Joan Azeka/Unsplash

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Reston Community Center has passed a major milestone for parks and recreation programs.

The center received its accreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies and the National Recreation and Park Association.

The accreditation is specifically designed for park and recreation agencies and indicates the agency’s service quality and management.

RCC demonstrated compliance with 151 standards and documented policies and procedures to receive the accreditation.

“RCC has long pursued excellence in our programs and services,” said RCC Board Chair Beverly Cosham. “CAPRA accreditation validates our efforts and provides the people of Reston with confidence that their tax dollars are being wisely spent, they are part of our engagement processes, and that our work is conducted at the highest standards of accountability with the best practices established by the field.”

Here’s more RCC on the honor:

The process for accreditation involves a formal application, self-assessments, a site visit by a team of trained visitors that results in a written report, and a hearing with the commission to grant accreditation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s visitations were held virtually. Once accredited, the agency must uphold the standards by submitting an annual report and is reviewed again in five years 

“We look forward to maintaining our accreditation status and continuing to meet these standards in the years ahead,” notes RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon. “Achieving this milestone is important and maintaining accreditation is equally vital to our success. We were able to succeed in large measure as a function of Fairfax County Government excellence and with the support of our colleagues in the Fairfax County Park Authority.”

The Commission is comprised of representatives from NRPA, the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials, the International City/County Management Association, the Academy for Leisure Sciences, the Armed Forces Recreation Network and the Council of State Executive Directors.

Photo via RCC/Facebook

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This year’s general election ballot will include a $112 million bond referendum requested by the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Roughly $100 million of the bonds will be used to help finance land acquisition to finance parks, new park development, and the ownership of natural and cultural resources. The remaining $12 million funds the county’s share for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority‘s capital projects. Those projects include expanding public open space and trails, protecting resources, improving existing facilities, and expanding more recreational opportunities.

The latest request for general obligations bonds is the largest since 1959. In 2016, FCPS requested roughly $95 million.

The bond referendum follows a needs assessment in 2016 that called on county residents to identify areas of importance an unmet needs, according to the county. Following that review, a capital improvement framework was developed to guide future projects.

Plans include a new Riverbend Park Visitor Center in Great Falls, playground replacements, improvements and renovations at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston and the development of new trails and stream crossings across county parks.

Currently, roughly 60 percent of all park operating costs are covered by user fees, which do not cover capital costs.  The bond question will be on the Nov. 3 ballot.

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The Fairfax County Park Foundation (FCPF) will honor The Friends of Riverbend Park (FORB) with the 2020 Eakin Philanthropy Award at a virtual ceremony in November for its support of Riverbend Park programs and projects.

 FORB has donated more than $85,600 through the Park Foundation, according to a statement from the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).

The donations have funded forest restoration and environmental field trips to Riverbend Park for the education of Title I school students. FORB has also paid for multiple summer intern awards and unfunded needs of Riverbend Park staff, as well as equipment for the park, according to the statement. 

FORB was formalized in 2018 by ratifying a Fairfax County Park Authority Friends Group Memorandum of Understanding with the Park Authority Board.

The FCPF created the Eakin Philanthropy Award in 2009 to honor the Eakin family who donated the first parcels of the parkland to the Park Authority more than 50 years ago, according to the statement.

The award is given annually to recognize individuals and organizations whose financial or in-kind contributions have supported Fairfax County parks through the foundation.

Photo via the Fairfax County Park Authority

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A number of amenities are now open for public use at county parks as Northern Virginia enters phase two of the COVID-19 reopening plan today (Friday).

Athletic fields, basketball courts, picnic shelters, playgrounds, and other amenities will be open, but with the following restrictions in place:

Athletic Fields – Athletic fields will open for organized and permitted use based on the governor’s and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines pertaining to use of athletic fields.

Basketball Courts – Outdoor courts will open, but users must stay 10 feet apart.

Volleyball Courts – Outdoor courts will open, but users must stay 10 feet apart.

Dog Parks – Dog parks will open with users urged to maintain social distancing.

Marinas – Marinas will open for rentals at lakefront and riverfront parks.

Mini-golf – Miniature golf courses will open at all locations, except Jefferson District Park (due to construction).

Restrooms – Permanent outdoor restrooms and portable restrooms will open systemwide. We encourage visitors to bring hand sanitizer since these facilities are often without running water.

Picnic Shelters – Shelters within parks will open for permitted use with 50% capacity of regular occupancy limits, not to exceed 50 people.

Playgrounds – Playgrounds will open systemwide including Clemyjontri Park and Chessie’s Big Backyard at Lee District Park. There is no special cleaning; visitors should use at their own risk and must adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Currently, recreation centers and other Fairfax County Park Authority facilities remain closed, including nature centers, pools and historic sites. The county is expected to allow more openings when the state enters phase three.

FCPA staff have begun implementing the changes at several facilities. Implementation of the latest openings could take several weeks.

In the Town of Herndon, dogs and playgrounds opened today, but restrooms and basketball courts remain closed. No special cleaning will be conducted of any playgrounds in the town or the county.

File photo

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Fairfax County announced today that it is closing both its indoor and outdoor parks “until further notice” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The health and wellbeing of our community, park visitors and staff remain our highest priority,” according to the county. “By limiting park usage to exercising on trails, we hope to reduce the largest crowd gatherings, thus improving the ability to social distance and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Earlier this month, the county closed indoor parks for two weeks starting Monday, March 16. Yesterday, the county announced the closure of its playgrounds, skate parks and restrooms.

Now, all of the Fairfax County Park Authority parks will be closed by tomorrow night.

“This change is in response to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s order to close public access to recreational facilities,” according to the county.

The county’s full list of new closures include:

  • parking lots
  • athletic fields
  • sport courts
  • restrooms
  • nature centers
  • visitor centers
  • golf courses
  • historic sites
  • picnic areas
  • playgrounds
  • amusements
  • boat launches
  • skate parks
  • off-leash dog areas
  • outdoor fitness equipment
  • any areas for open recreation

Additionally, Park Authority programs and events through April 14 and programs at Fairfax County Public Schools through June 15 have been canceled.

People can still use the trails around Fairfax County as long as they keep 6 feet away from other people and don’t form groups.

“While all parks and amenities are closed, trails will remain open for individual use, but not group use,” the county said. “All social distancing recommendations are in effect.”

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COVID-19 has prompted a lot of closures, but there are still certain recreational activities in the Reston area to help people stay healthy while social distancing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that people take care of their bodies through tactics like deep breathing, stretching and meditation during the recent outbreak.

Reston Now compiled a list of resources from around the area and websites offering fitness opportunities that support social-isolation.

Parks and Outdoor Activities 

The NOVA Parks website said that most parks will remain open for the time being, but with specific changes made to staffing.

Visitors should note that things like the visitor center are closed, but people are free to come and go, according to the website.

While Fairfax County has closed its indoor park facilities and recreation, nature and community centers through March 29, people can still use the county’s outdoor parks and trails.

Lake Fairfax Park in Reston (1400 Lake Fairfax Drive) is open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., according to google.

Though the Walker Nature Center (11450 Glade Drive) is closed, according to its Facebook page, its trails are still open for public use.

The Town of Herndon also created a map of area parks for visitors.

Apps and Fitness Resources 

Though it isn’t necessarily a new trend, fitness classes are going digital so that people can still exercise at home.

Core Power Yoga closed its studios but offers digital classes so people can take guided classes on-demand from the comfort of their own home, its website said.

FitOn offers a large variety of fitness classes for clients and there is even a free version that people can take advantage of.

Digital Fitness Assessment on major app stores is yet another option for home fitness. It lets people record their goals and helps keep them on track, according to the app description.

Mental Wellbeing

For people feeling isolated, experts also suggest touching base with friends and family using digital tools such as Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts. All these software allow people to video chat and see each other without coming into close proximity.

For mental health issues, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Series Administration has a hotline where people can reach out if they are becoming concerned. People can chat with someone for free at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The CDC also directly suggests avoiding substances like alcohol and drugs while in self-isolation.

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Thursday Morning Notes

Reston Association Steps Up Cleaning Efforts — “To deter the spread of the virus, our building management service has implemented new cleaning guidelines that include regularly wiping down high touchpoints such as door handles, water fountain buttons and elevator panels.” [Reston Association]

Deadline for Fairfax Parks Poetry Contest Extended — Students in elementary through middle school have until Tuesday, March 17 to submit entries for the contest. [Fairfax County Parks]

Herndon Police Department Cancels Fingerprinting Event — In an effort to protect volunteers, the department canceled Friday’s fingerprinting services until further notice. HPD wrote that the cancellation is “strictly a precautionary measure.” [Herndon Police Department]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The three outdoor tennis courts at Bready Park (814 Ferndale Avenue) are set to get a facelift.

The Town of Herndon plans to work with Bishop’s Tennis, Inc. to resurface and repair the courts. A cushioned hardcourt surface man will be installed and nets on the court will also be replaced.

At a meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 18), the Herndon Town Council discussed the $140,259 bid from the company.

A town spokesperson told Reston Now that the project would begin in August after summer camps are finished for the season. Typically, it takes between one to two weeks to complete resurfacing and repair projects.

Image via Google Maps

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A new shelter designed to support environmental education programs will open in Riverbend Park in Great Falls this spring. Residents can also reserve the shelter for community gatherings and events.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for Saturday, April 27. The $864,000 project — financed through voter-approved park bonds —  also includes 18 new parking spaces and enhanced stormwater management.

Judy Pederson, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Park Authority, told Reston Now the new outdoor education shelter “serves a vital role in outdoor education for local school children,” allowing residents to host up to six classes simultaneously. Previously, the park’s facilities only allowed three classes to be held at once — two indoors and one outdoors.

FCPA hopes the new shelter will meet growing demand for additional educational facilities. Buses can also park near boat trailer parking spaces in the lower waterfront parking, Pederson said.

Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority

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As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues, Fairfax County Public Schools is offering resources to furloughed government workers after most missed their first paycheck of the shutdown last Friday (Jan. 11).

FCPS plans to hold a second hiring event for furloughed federal employees interested in substitute teaching positions.

The hiring event last week hit capacity. The event is set for tomorrow (Jan. 15) from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the FCPS Administration Center at 8115 Gatehouse Road in Falls Church, Va. Participants are encouraged beforehand to register, complete an application for employment and bring original documents required for the I-9 form I-9.

FCPS’s “No Student Will Go Hungry” program is supporting families affected by the federal government shutdown by providing breakfast and lunch to all students regardless of their ability to pay or temporary financial circumstances. FCPS will also allow unpaid balances to accrue during the shutdown.

Furloughed workers can also look at Fairfax County’s resources online, including a Human Services Guide to seek assistance from nonprofits and a list of free or low-cost events at county libraries and parks.

The county also plans to have a “Stuff the Bus” event on Saturday (Jan. 19) where locals can bring food and cash donations to support local nonprofit food pantries. One of the collection spots will be the Fox Mill Giant (2551 John Milton Drive) in Herndon from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Food, utility and rent assistance is available from the county’s Health and Human Services agencies.

File photo

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An environment-focused nonprofit has raked in funding for long-awaited community garden plots at Bruin Park.

The Fairfax County Park Authority Board approved a funding request from the Herndon Environmental Network (HEN) for $20,000 at its Nov. 14 meeting.

HEN will use the grant money to help develop 40 garden plots on the west side of the tennis courts at the park, which is located at 415 Van Buren Street. The plan also includes adding fencing to protect the plots and accessible trails, according to a county press release.

The project’s budget totals $42,496.22 — a combination of the grant money with a $7,966.06 cash contribution and $14,530.16 of in-kind donations from HEN.

Plans for the community garden sprouted several years ago.

The Master Plan for Bruin Park was amended in January 2014 to allow for community garden plots. In April 2017, an agreement between HEN, the Town of Herndon — which owns the park — and the Park Authority authorized HEN to develop, manage and maintain community garden plots at the park, according to the press release.

HEN is set to celebrate the grant award at the monthly Bruin Park Community Garden planning meeting — free and open to the public — at 7 p.m. on Dec. 13 at the Herndon Fortnightly Library.

Photo via Herndon Community Garden at Bruin Park/Facebook

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Piqued by a plan to increase Reston’s population density in select areas, residents pressed county officials to identify specific athletic field options and open space commitments at a work session this week.

During the meeting, the 10-member panel, which included representatives from Reston Association, the Coalition for a Planned Reston and three county officials, discussed how the county plans to ensure future development in and around Reston’s future urban core will incorporate athletic fields and open, community spaces.

While citizen members lauded the county’s efforts to work with developers, some noted that county plans lacked specific assurances on how and when broad commitments would come to reality.

The meeting is the second in a series of work sessions on topics of concern raised by local residents and community organizations as the county mulls a plan to increase Reston’s population density in its Planned Residential Community district planned from 13 to 16 people per acre.

County officials said planning processes are in place to ensure athletic fields and open space requirements are met. Generally, once major developments are built and occupied overtime and needs are generated through pressure created by development, specific requirements for athletic fields will kick in. 

However, they remained mum about the location of future athletic fields, noting that negotiations with developers are ongoing and that, once property owners learn a land is being considered for an athletic field, the property’s price is often hiked considerably. 

Asked by a member to point to possible locations for fields, Fred Selden, the director of the county’s planning and zoning department, said, “Right now, we can’t.” 

In Reston, one athletic field is required for each Transit Station Area and nine are required outside the TSA areas. Upgrades to existing fields may also be considered. Thus far, the developers have committed $10.3 million to go toward athletic fields in the greater Reston area.

So far, funds have remained untouched.

Others called on county officials to aggressively push developers of major mixed-use proposals — like the 36-acre Reston Crescent project — to identify specific plans for athletic fields.

“Those are the examples where the community feels we were being passed by in some way, shape or form,” said Larry Butler, RA’s Acting CEO.

Dennis Hays, president of the Reston Citizens Association, said he was concerned no immediate plans were on the table.

“Everything that we keep talking about is down the road,” Hays, who led the meeting, said.

Andrea Dorlester, manager of the county’s park planning branch, said the county has been aggressive in pushing developers to identify plans for nearly two years. When working with Brookfield, the developer of the Reston Crescent, county staff said they rejected a proposal by the developer to include a small athletic field suitable for children up to the age of eight.

Now, the plan, which is barreling towards final approval later this month, includes a proposal for the developer to purchase seven acres outside the property and convey it to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Part of the challenge in securing athletic fields is that Reston’s master plan does not mandate the creation of athletic fields in Reston’s planned downtown core, officials said.

As additional development waits in the pipeline, others worry that challenge may already be difficult to overcome. One question, they say, hovers: As land becomes limited in the area, where will the future athletic fields go?

File photo

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