Great Waves

Today, we rewind to the late 1970s and early 1980s. Back then, Darrell Winslow, Capital Programs Director for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, was tasked with finding new opportunities for parks and recreation in our region. 

Mr. Winslow recalled hearing about this new type of pool.... a wave pool. After bringing up the idea in a staff meeting, he convinced his Executive Director at the time to take a trip with him. Mr. Winslow wanted to see firsthand what this wave pool thing was all about, and there was one place in the country that had already built one; Point Mallard Park in Decatur, Alabama. The trip was going to be for just one day, so when he arrived at the airport and the airline attendant asked him if he had luggage to check, Mr. Winslow simply held up a plastic bag containing a bathing suit and smiled.

Mr. Winslow returned home the same day and quickly let everyone know that the wave pool was amazing and that he would begin planning for the construction of one immediately. He thought it would make a great feature for a Northern Virginia regional park and people would love it as much as he had. The initial planning was for Occoquan Regional Park. However, radio disc jockey, “Murphy in the Morning” at WEEL, helped fuel discord urging listeners to call in and say "NVRPA - Don't Make Waves!" Murphy did not see the potential of a wave pool and viewed it as a waste of money. This radio campaign ended plans to have the wave pool at Occoquan.

Another area would need to be chosen if Mr. Winslow's idea was going to come to fruition. And it was around this time that NVRPA began work on securing a site in the City of Alexandria. It would be the first so-called Urban Park in the regional park system, built along the city’s southern border and the Capital Beltway, and next to a stream called Cameron Run. The park would not just have a wave pool but would also have water slides, smaller pools, lounging areas, and snack bars. 

History was made in Alexandria with the building of the country’s second, and largest, wave pool at the time. The people of the Northern Virginia region have known the park as both Cameron Run and Great Waves, for 35 years now. It remains hugely popular and often used recreational area that was once just a dream of a man who simply recalled being told about a new thing called a wave pool. 

Finding innovative and cutting-edge park uses is part of the DNA of NOVA Parks. Today, there is planning to add “Ice and Lights” to Cameron Run, putting in an ice skating rink and an animated light show during the winter season (look for this in November 2019).

NOVA Parks is proud to continue to operate Great Waves that sees nearly 100,000 users a year, and we are very happy that Mr. Winslow did, in fact, make waves. 

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