At the most basic level, there would be no park systems without parkland. Land is the central ingredient. When NOVA Parks (Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) was founded 60 years ago the first act was to buy 537 acres that was the start of Bull Run Regional Park.

From there rapid park acquisitions took place throughout the 60’s, 70’s and part of the 80’s. By 1975 NOVA Parks had grown to 7,418 acres. During this era, there was a lot of funding assistance to buy parkland. The Land & Water Conservation Fund is a federal grant source that was well funding during this era, and in many cases, matched local funding to assist in the growth of park systems. But by the late 1980’s that funding source was a shadow of its previous self. Land acquisitions for NOVA Parks had slowed dramatically. From the mid 1990’s to the mid 2000’s land acquisitions had virtually come to a stop, with just one small inholding being acquired during that decade. For ten years NOVA Parks had 19 parks and 10,000 acres, with no change.

That stagnant period came to an end with the cut of a ribbon at Aldie Mill in 2006! A new era of land acquisition was launched, and today NOVA Parks has 34 parks and 12,200 acres! That is:

15 New Parks

2,000+ New Acres of Parkland

So, what happened? It was not a significant increase in Land & Water Conservation Funding. It was a new focus and approach. The focus is centered on partnerships. Finding like-minded organizations to work with to expand the parkland in Northern Virginia was key to this new and successful model. Some of the organizations that NOVA Parks have partnered with to drive this remarkable growth in parkland include:

Virginia Outdoor Foundation

American Battlefield Trust

Audubon Naturalist Society

Loudoun Water Authority

Fauquier-Loudoun Garden Club

Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation

Piedmont Environmental Council

Northern Virginia Conservation Trust

Virginia Land Conservation Foundation


There is an African Proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That sentiment of the benefit of partnerships is central to the addition of over 2,000 acres of parkland in the last 13 years.

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