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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Park Authority Board Member Update, April 2011

Observatory at
Turner Park
By Marie Reinsdorf
This is the second in my new series of brief news pieces to let you know what’s happening at the Fairfax County Park Authority Board.

At our most recent meeting, April 13, the board voted to approve three Mastenbrook matching-fund grant applications. Mastenbrook funds come from previously approved park bond dollars, and the program was created to help citizens who want to undertake a park improvement project.

The grants that were approved are $10,000 to Mason District Little League for batting cages at Mason District Park in Annandale, $10,000 to  Northern Virginia Radio Control Inc, for improvements at the radio control model aircraft flying field at Poplar Ford Park, and $7,680 to the Northern Virginia Girls Softball Association for batting cages at Clermont Park.

If you have an idea for a project you’d like to build at your local park, I encourage you to look over the Mastenbrook information and application on the park authority website.

The Park Authority board also reconsidered the motion that failed to pass at last month’s meeting to raise the fees for recreation centers, golf courses, and other places. There were no changes to the motion, and with the full board of 12 present, the motion passed 7-5, with the same five members who voted it down last time, including me, doing so again. I hope we can reduce rec center fees in the future.

During a meeting of the board’s Planning and Development Committee, we reviewed a planned project to build a shelter at the Hidden Oaks Nature Center. The outdoor shelter will have room for 30 and the project will include walkways to connect it to the building and to existing trails. This was wonderful to learn about.

One of the more interesting actions we’ve discussed and approved this year is a Memorandum of Understanding between the Park Authority and the Analemma Society to operate an Observatory Park at Turner Farm Park in Great Falls.

The Analemma Society will develop and deliver programs, contribute equipment, and implement future site features, working with the Park Authority and others. The Park Authority will manage the facility and develop a roll top observatory education building.

The park already has a small observatory building. One sundial has been installed in what will be a sundial garden. Analemma is raising funds for a replica of a famous sundial in Damascus, Syria, created by 14th century mathematician Ibn-Al-Shatir.

Analemma Society Chairman Charles Olin describes the Observatory Park undertaking as an “informal science education effort.” The Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education explains the concept of informal science education as efforts to “support people of all ages and walks of life in exploring science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

Analemma hosts Friday night viewings at Turner Farm and has agreements with science teachers at Thomas Jefferson and Herndon high schools.

Since my last writing, the Park Authority and the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services hosted a public meeting April 6 to hear from users of public fields on a proposal to reduce the number of walk-on field users from 40 to 20.

Most of the speakers at that meeting were league officers and volunteers. A common problem that emerged was the difficulty they encountered taking control of a field when it’s the league’s scheduled time to use it. I look forward to a forthcoming review of comments submitted online, too, so that we can discuss the best ways to fix problems while welcoming everyone to our fields.

Finally, I’d like to share an announcement from Mary Olien, the manager of the new John C. and Margaret K. White Gardens. The new park is not yet fully funded, but has an existing collection of azaleas, rhododendrons, and other plants that need care.

A volunteer work-day will take place Wednesday, April 27, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. If you’re planning to come, wear long pants and sturdy shoes, bring gloves and water, and label any pruners, shears, or other items you bring.

The White Gardens are located at 3301 Hawthorne Lane, Falls Church. From Annandale Road, (just south of the intersection with Kerns Road), turn east on Holloman Road. Take the next left on Princess Anne Lane. From the end of the paved road continue into the park (Mapping programs might not take you to the right place). Feel free to e-mail me if you’d like me to send you a flyer about this event.

Marie Reinsdorf serves as Fairfax County Park Authority Board Member at-large (2008-11), and any views expressed here are her own. [The photo is from the Analemma Society website.]

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