50 years ago

Founded in 1959, by late 1969 and early 1970 the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks) was in full swing, creating the regional park system we know today. A review of the Board minutes from this time gives a snapshot of what was going on. Issues at the top of the agenda included:

  • Buying the Carlyle House
  • New Chevy Station Wagon for $2,262
  • Potomac Overlook Acquisition & Development
  • Major Land Acquisitions along the Occoquan
  • Bull Run Campground Development
  • Playground for $1,000
  • Development of Fountainhead
  • Pohick Bay Acquisitions
  • Dreams of the W&OD

A wide range of issues from large to small were on the docket. The acquisition of the Carlyle House, a historic mansion in need of total restoration, brought Alexandria into the regional park system. 

One of the elements that come through in looking at this moment in time is that large projects take years of effort to fully achieve. The Carlyle house was being purchased at the time so that it could be fully restored and open six years later for the Bicentennial. Acquisition of the land along the Bull Run/Occoquan Rivers that started ten years earlier was still going strong with multiple land deals. In the end, over 4,000 acres of continuous parkland along the southern border of Fairfax County were assembled. Parks including Potomac Overlook, Fountainhead and parts of Bull Run were all under construction.

One interesting note is that less than two years after the W&OD Railroad had stopped operation, NOVA Parks was already eyeing this property as a potential future trail system. It would be four more years before an experimental 1.5-mile section of the trail was open, and 20 years before the 45-mile trail was completely owned and operated by NOVA Parks. This speaks to long-term vision!

A decade after the establishment of NOVA Parks, it was a very dynamic organization, aggressively creating a world-class regional park system.

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