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Organized Activities in Natural Areas on Parkland


Restricted Activities in Natural Areas - Regardless of the size of the group, all organized activities on park land in natural areas which may or will cause people to go off of authorized trails require special written permission by the Park Authority through a Park Use Permit. Authorized trails are those trails maintained by the Park Authority or by another organization under special agreement with the Park Authority. Note: Permission will not be granted if the activity conflicts with park management goals/guidelines.

Activities requiring special permission in natural areas include but are not limited to:

-orienteering
-geocaching, letterboxing or similar activities
-search and rescue training
-adventure training
-laser tag
-programs or classes
-athletic events or physical training
-research or nature study
-parties or weddings
-night-time activities (whether on trail or off trail)
-any group of 25 or more people using a trail

Reasons for restricting activities in natural areas - The Fairfax County Park Authority is required through its policies and mission to protect and preserve natural and cultural resources on park land. Activities which cause people to go off authorized trails in natural areas often disturb soils and cause erosion, can damage archeological sites, damage plants, disrupt wildlife and can introduce invasive species on clothing and equipment. By limiting off-trail activity we can help preserve our natural and cultural resources for future generations. The bench mark for review will be whether the activity will or will not impact any sensitive resources and will or will not have any lasting impact.

Download the Park Use Permit Application (PDF)

How to Apply

Things to provide to help your application - When applying for special use permits for natural areas, you can take a few steps that will help Park Authority staff evaluate your request. These include:

  • For activities such as orienteering and geocaching, check the list of park sites below where those activities are likely to be approved. If the park site you would like to use is not on that list, it is likely that your request will not be approved.
  • Include information on the requirements of your activity. How many acres does it require? How will you disperse participants to reduce impacts? Do you need to bring in and set up and special equipment? (It should be noted that activities that require removal of plants or disturbance of soil will generally not be approved.)

Sites where activities in natural areas may be suitable with written permission:

Orienteering (large events, one time per year per site)
-Lake Fairfax
-Lake Accotink
Orienteering (existing courses for smaller groups - check with site for availability)
-Burke Lake
-Ellanor C. Lawrence Park
-Hidden Pond Nature Center
Geocaching, Letterboxing or Similar Activities
-List of suitable sites
Mountain Biking
-Wakefield Park
-Lake Accotink

Activities prohibited on park land

It should be noted that there are activities that are prohibited on park land and will not be approved under the special permit process. Most prohibited activities are legal violations that could result in fines and other penalties. Such activities include but are not limited to:

-hunting or trapping
-gathering or wild foods or plants
-metal detecting
-gold panning
-cutting firewood
-paint ball (note that paint ball guns, pellet and BB guns are prohibited on park land by county ordinance)
-archery
-disturbance of vegetation or animals
-removal of vegetation, animals or natural materials
-digging of any kind
-release or planting of any organism (animals, plants, etc.) in a park

For more information, you may also view the Park Authority Regulations.


Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Technical Questions: Web Administrator

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