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Thursday, June 21, 2012

NEPP grant funding bears fruit in Annandale

The current entrance to Camelot on Little River Turnpike
 By Elizabeth Kirchner
Neighborhood Enhancement Partnership Program (NEPP) grants awarded to Fairfax County communities this spring are beginning to bear fruit.

Since the Board of Supervisors established NEPP in 2008, the program has evaluated 153 applications and made 87 awards to community groups and nonprofits.

One award was made this spring to the Camelot neighborhood in Annandale, and on a recent  sunny Saturday morning, Camelot residents, including many children, a guitarist, and two dogs, stopped by the King Arthur Road entrance to the neighborhood to talk, drink lemonade, have a slice of watermelon, and choose from among three landscape designs submitted for a new entrance garden.

Because the Camelot neighborhood lies along the Accotink Stream Valley, all three garden designs—titled “Re-Use is Good Use,” “Winding Wetlands,” and “Pretty Wild”—called for the capturing of storm water and the use of native plants.

Camelot resident Chuck Dennis wrote Camelot’s NEPP proposal, which netted the community a $1,000 grant. Other residents collected garden designs from Merrifield Garden Center, Nature by Design in Alexandria, and a local landscape architect who is a member of the nonprofit organization, Friends of Accotink Creek. Fifty-seven percent of Camelot voters chose Merrifield’s “ReUse is Good Use” design.

As they evaluated the designs, residents offered several comments, such as “Make sure drivers can see around that giant holly so they don’t run me over when I’m walking the dog,” and “I like the watershed-friendly part of all of these choices. Grass is like pavement.”

Camelot resident Brian Parr, a water conservation advocate, said, “We’ll plant and landscape in September. Scout troops and students, the Garden Club—everybody—can help in some way. The NEPP grant is designed to bring communities together. We’re doing that now.”

Grant recipients are expected to contribute half the grant amount in volunteer labor. That’s the key to promoting community involvement. It’s all about Girl Scouts with shovels, the Garden Club with pruners, and next-door-neighbors who have never met talking to one another.

In NEPP’s first year, 2009-10, Mason District alone harnessed 2,162 volunteer hours to develop six gardens, a path, and senior citizen projects.

Fairfax County government representatives participated in the Camelot event, too, including Mason Supervisor Penny Gross, who helped established the NEPP initiative. Lily Whitesell, the education coordinator for the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, offered insight on water conservation and management.

Slicing bagels and pouring lemonade, Parr explained, “The water conservation theme in this really visible project helps each person think about his individual responsibility for the whole community.”

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