On Wednesday, December 27, a new 85-acre park of forests and fields was created in Leesburg, Virginia with the recording of an official deed signifying its transfer of ownership. The donation of 85 acres, named Cattail Regional Park, is the 36th park in the regional NOVA Parks system.
As a continuation of its tradition of philanthropy, the Harris family donated this property that had been in the family for generations. Henry Harris, who grew up on this property, was the nephew of A.V. Symington, who donated Temple Hall Farm to NOVA Parks 30 years ago.
“Parkland is one of our most valued public assets. I would like to thank the Harris family for this remarkable gift. Their contributions to our community run very deep,” said Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis J. Randall. “And I would like to thank NOVA Parks for their continued push to expand parkland, having added nearly 1,000 acres of new parkland in Loudoun County in the last decade! This new park will serve the public for generations to come.”
Located at the corner of Edwards Ferry Road and Battlefield Parkway, the Cattail property has several unique claims to history. In 1776, one of its buildings served as an “ordinary” or bed and breakfast, as documented in the journal of Englishman Nicholas Cresswell, who stayed there. During the Civil War, fortifications were created along Edwards Ferry Road. In the late 1960s, the public pool in Leesburg closed in an effort to avoid integration. The Harris family stepped in and allowed local black children to come to their pool at the Cattail farm to learn to swim.
In addition to its mature forests and open fields, the Cattail property contains an upland bog. Wetland areas like this are fed by underground springs and support a great variety of life.
Jim Bonfils, NOVA Parks Board member and representative of Loudoun County, remarked, “I am excited, delighted and very appreciative of the Harris family donation of the Cattail property to NOVA Parks. The Board previously approved accepting this property, which will result in a new park in Loudoun County.”
Future plans for the property include a trail network and interpretive signs about its unique features, as well as an entrance and parking once it is open to the public.
NOVA Parks continues to expand parkland in Loudoun County and beyond in support of its Strategic Plan goal to expand the park system with new lands. In 2022, NOVA Parks added 128 acres of Springdale property along the Potomac River in northern Loudoun County and the 44-acre Winkler Botanical Preserve in the City of Alexandria. NOVA Parks has also partnered with Loudoun Water to build Reservoir Park at Beaverdam, which will open to the public with new facilities in early 2024. Conserving historic and natural resources through park expansion are pillars of NOVA Parks’ founding and future.
About NOVA Parks
Founded in 1959 as a conservation organization, NOVA Parks (Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) represents three counties and three cities — Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Falls Church, and the City of Fairfax. The regional agency now manages 36 parks with 12,465 acres of parkland, including waterparks, golf courses, campsites, historic sites, event venues, boat launches, annual holiday light shows, and a high adventure ropes course.