Post 3: Open the Parks for Improvement by People, Please!

A Crying Need for An Open Door to the Public to Work Together with Government for Better Parks: A slightly long post exploring this idea

New York City long ago saw the need to unleash citizen power on parks.   Maintenance needs grew, funding shrunk.   There was a need for a program of encouragement and facilitation; citizens could take on development and maintenance, AND bring parks to life with their own vision and energy.   One result was the New York Partnership for Parks, and its People Make Parks program — please click the link to get a taste of what they do:

“We equip people, organizations and government with the skills and tools they need to transform these [park] spaces into dynamic community assets.”

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Post 2: What is a Park Authority?

FCPA Park SignNVRPA Park Sign

Above:  park signs used by our two park authorities

What is a Park Authority? An Introduction

“Authority: a person or body of persons in whom authority is vested, as a governmental agency” – Collins English Dictionary online

“Public authorities are agencies created by governments to engage directly in the economy for public purposes” – Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History

“Authorities borrow from both municipal corporation law (that is, the laws responsible for the creation of cities, towns, and other forms of local government) and private corporations law” – Wikipedia

We in Fairfax have two park authorities: our county park system, managed by the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA); and the multi-jurisdiction Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), also known as NOVA Parks.

An authority is like a piece of government that has been split off.   The FCPA’s Annual Report refers to itself as ‘a component unit of the County of Fairfax.’  The FCPA looks like a county agency, its employees are county employees and it follows most if not all administrative practices of the county government.  It is, however, like a public corporation.   The FCPA Executive Director does not report to the Fairfax County Executive, but rather to the FCPA Board, who has hired him or her.  FCPA Board members are appointed by the county Board of Supervisors (BOS) – one by each district supervisor, 3 at-large by the Chair of the BOS.  The FCPA’s budget pie chart has 5 slices, and the FCPA Board has direct oversight of 2 of those slices.

The Virginia Legislature authorized the creation of park authorities by localities in 1950. You can find the language in The Virginia Code, in the section called “Counties, Cities, and Towns,” direct link:  The same year, our county park authority was formed using the instruments of a county ordinance and a memorandum of understanding between the BOS and our new Authority.

The NVRPA was founded in 1959 by Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington Counties, together with the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax.  The NVRPA receives its government funding as contributions from member jurisdictions, based on population; and usually receives a slice of park bonds (f the $107 million bond referendum for parks in 2016, $94.7 million went to the FCPA, $12.3 million to NVRPA) .  It is governed by a board of directors each appointed by his/her member government.

Is a Park Authority typical in Virginia?  It takes a bit of hunting to find out, as Virginia does not have a central office or point of contact for its authorities.  It turns out that our two are about the only ones in the state.  Virginia’s next largest jurisdictions: Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Richmond have regular parks and recreation departments.  Next-door Prince William County had a Park Authority that was founded in 1977; it dissolved in 2012 and turned over operations to the county.

You may know that authorities can borrow money by selling revenue bonds, to fund for construction and maintenance.  The debt is repaid from the authority’s revenue such as that from admission fees.  The Park Bonds we vote on, however, are “general obligation” bonds.  The debt is repaid out of the county’s budget; think of this as a second public fund for the two park authorities.

Last, we note that we have another county recreation agency, the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.  Its focus is strong on social service, but it offer lots of recreation — see their community center calendars , and operates community centers which have sports courts and other sports facilities.  NCS also schedules the use of the Park Authority sports fields.

These 3 major park & recreation agencies operate independently.

In our Reference section, we have compiled a list of all park agencies operating in and near Fairfax County.

Questions or comments? Send to and we will post (your name omitted) with reply.




Post 1: Hello from Parks for People

Covering the world of parks in the Fairfax County, Virginia Area

[updated July 16]

Parks are a major public resource, representing major public investment.  Per the Fairfax County Park Authority’s recent annual report, its nearly 24,000 acres of land, building and equipment of that agency are valued at $624 million.  It employs thousands, and thousands more contribute to parks as volunteers and donors.  We can’t put a number on inherent value as natural holdings and public commons.   Parks touch on every aspect of physical, social, environmental, economic, cultural, and educational health and vitality.

This blog and site will focus on parks, with an emphasis on advocating for the role of people.  How can we citizens best work together with each other and with our government for parks that are at their best?  In the most enjoyable and productive ways?  Using creativity and sound practices? What information, what tools and kinds of discussions do we need for the best outcomes?

We’ll publish regularly, and grow the site with other useful pages, such as the Reference Page with its lists of organizations and publications you may be interested in; and we’ll seek to bring people and organizations together.

This is dedicated to our parks and to all of us in Fairfax County.  Below I write about why this blog is important to me.

Marie Reinsdorf, editor

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