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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Friends group forming for Oak Hill Park

An overgrown trail in Oak Hill Park. [Glen Erickson Bell]
Oak Hill Park in Annandale has long been neglected by the Fairfax County Park Authority. Nearby residents have done some maintenance on their own over the years, but now Glen Erickson Bell is mobilizing his neighbors to become more active advocates by creating a friends group for the park.

Oak Hill Park is near the Braddock Road/Wakefield Chapel Road intersection and can be accessed from Tarheel Way and Queen Elizabeth Boulevard.

The public is invited to the first meeting of the Friends of Oak Hill Park Feb. 29, 7 p.m., at Braddock Hall, 9002 Burke Lake Road, Burke. Bell wants the friends group to push the Park Authority to put Oak Hill Park on its maintenance schedule, clean up the trails, pick up trash, and remove invasive vines.

The park is about half a mile from Oak Hill, the oldest house in Annandale, and Bell would like to have a historical interpretive sign installed explaining the park’s connection with the surrounding land.

The small Robertson family cemetery plot in the park needs to be cleaned up, and one of the headstones that had been tossed into a ditch needs to be replaced. According to Bell, there are graves of children buried in the 1940s and 50s.

Bell has been advocating for Oak Hill Park since he and his wife moved to the neighborhood five years ago. When he first explored the park, he found overgrown trees and shrubs that were rotten and falling down and lots of yard debris from neighbors who were using the park as a dumping ground.

A large sign identifying the park had been deliberately covered by a tree branch by a resident who was treating the park as an extension of his backyard and wanted to keep the public out. Other residents, however, had voluntarily helped clean up the park, removing invasive English Ivy and collecting litter.

Bell contacted the Park Authority numerous times over the years and was told there was no money for Oak Hill Park. County staff eventually brush-cut a trail between Beaverdam Court and Tarheel Way and replaced damaged signs. Another trail, between Tarheel and Glen Park Road, needs lots of work.

“If there is a friends groups advocating for a park, the Park Authority pays more attention,” Bell says. He hopes the new group will work closely with the Friends of Accotink Creek and Friends of Lake Accotink Park, which have been effective in getting funding and recruiting volunteers. For more information on the Friends of Oak Hill Park, contact Glen Erickson Bell, gericksonbell@hotmail.com.

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