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Thrill seekers will soon swing into action when Fairfax County Park Authority, in partnership with Go Ape Treetop Adventure, opens its first zip line and high ropes course to the public. The adventure course is being constructed in the woodland near South Run RECenter in Springfield and is expected to open in early summer 2017.

"We're thrilled to have this partnership with Fairfax County and to be building in South Run," says Go Ape Managing Director Dan D'Agostino. "This will be a unique outdoor experience for residents and visitors alike. It's ideal for friends and family outings, corporate team building, and anyone who enjoys a challenge."

Treetop Adventure courses offer a fully immersive outdoor activity and provide park visitors with a new view of their local park setting and the forest canopy. The company is passionate about environmental preservation and will work with the Park Authority to ensure native and indigenous plants as well as wildlife in the course area are protected.

Stream Restoration

A new pedestrian bridge is scheduled for construction as part of the Colvin Run restoration project now underway at Lake Fairfax. Colvin Run gets large amounts of stormwater flow that is changing the channel size and alignment in Lake Fairfax Park. As a result, stream banks are eroding, the stream habitat is degraded and park infrastructure is subject to storm damage. This project will restore 1,700 feet of Colvin Run below the Lake Fairfax dam, and almost 500 feet of tributaries. It will also provide better access to the stream for recreation and environmental education but protect banks from excessive foot traffic that can kill vegetation and cause erosion.

The stream restoration project is a partnership between Dept. of Public Works and Environmental Services and the Fairfax County Park Authority. Project construction is scheduled to run from Sept. 16, 2016 to May 26, 2017. During this time the stream below the lake dam will be fenced off. Road and bridge construction will require Lake Fairfax Drive across Colvin Run below the dam to be closed from Jan. 1 to Mar. 31, 2017.

Bike Riding

Bike Riding

Plans are underway to construct a pump track near the Lake Fairfax soccer fields. A pump track is a continuous loop of dirt berms and "rollers" (smooth dirt mounds) that you ride without pedaling. The name comes from the pumping motion used by the rider's upper and lower body as he or she rides around the track. It's a great workout and lots of fun!

Pump tracks can be ridden by cyclists of all ages and skill levels, and almost any bicycle will work; BMX bikes, mountain bikes, kids bikes - even "scooter" bikes can be used. All you really need is a bike with knobby tires and a safety helmet. It's a great way to increase bike handling skills for younger riders and for the whole family to enjoy cycling in a safe, traffic-free environment.

Bathroom

Campground

You'll notice big changes at the Lake Fairfax campground, too. The bathhouse near the campground is being replaced with a new facility that meets modern-day standards for efficiency and accessibility. The restroom near the picnic area is also being replaced. Campground area construction is expected to begin in August. The bathhouse will be closed from Aug. 15, 2016 to May 26, 2017; the picnic area restroom is scheduled to be closed from Sept. 6, 2016 to May 26, 2017.

Dain Whitehead says he's "seven and three quarters" years old, and already has what seasoned golfers refer to as "the bug." "I saw it on TV and just wanted to do golf," he said with enthusiastic determination. Parent-and-child golf classes at Pinecrest Golf Course gave him and the opportunity to learn the game with his mother.

"Gretchen had never golfed before and thought it was something they could do together," said Dain's father, Matt Whitehead, a casual golfer who accompanied Dain one Saturday when his mom had a scheduling conflict. "The instruction is good here, the class is just the right length – one hour for five weeks, and what's nice about this program is they supply the clubs for the lessons, so you don't have to make a big investment."

Parent-Child Golf

Chris Fleury thought it was a good way to spend time with his 13-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. "We enjoyed learning together," he said. "She already thinks she's better than I am."

"I am," she said with a determined smile. "My [maternal] grandpa was a big golfer, so it's in my blood," she reasoned. Parents say instructor, Bill Pessaud, has a knack for connecting with young children on their level while differentiating instruction for older children and adults. "I haven't done golf for a long time," said 9-year-old Joseph L. Granato, "and Mr. Bill is really helping me out by teaching me how to use clubs and corrects the mistakes that I make." His father, Joseph R. Granato was equally impressed. "Bill doesn't overload the kids with too much information. The whole session is broken down into 30 or 40 minutes with each club."

Pessaud's approach is that of a grandfatherly figure whose gentle encouragement inspires confidence in his students. "I love children, and I want them to have a good experience from start to finish," said the certified golf instructor and Sunday school teacher who plays the game with his own son and grandsons. "If they're comfortable with the setting, they'll be more confident playing."

The parent-and-child golf class begins with fundamentals like grip, posture and ball alignment and progresses to putting, chipping and full-swing drives. Pessaud also stresses the importance of following the rules, proper etiquette and safety.

"If you hit the ball in the woods, don't reach in with your hand to get the ball; use the club to get it out because there might be poison ivy," he explained during a lesson on tee shots. "If the ball goes into the water, don't try to go in and get it because you could slip and fall in." He says safety is his number one priority when teaching children how to play golf, followed by good sportsmanship.

Thank You

"Golf is an integrity sport, and there's no referee and no umpire," he explained. "People who are too intense are not fun to play with. The most important thing is to have fun."

In the spirit of good sportsmanship, young Joseph Granato surprised Pessaud with a thoughtful gesture during the last class – a handmade thank-you note. "I'm going to keep playing and get better, for at least 25 years," Granato said. The child's appreciation made Passaud feel as though he had won the Masters. "See, this is why I do it," Pessaud said. "This is why I like to work with children."

Drop into the ABCs of Deep Water Exercise class at Oak Marr RECenter, and you plunge into a session that may seem more like playtime than exercise. Students say that's because instructor Phil Russell makes this fitness class fun by combining his sense of humor with creative aerobic, balance and core movements using water exercise bars, balls and noodles for a challenging, total-body workout.

"It's amazing," said Suzanne Flynn of Oak Hill. "This is the first class I've ever come to and stuck with."

"Stand with both feet on the noodle, 10 inches apart," Russell says as he leads the class in a balance exercise. A few seconds later, the students are laughing as they step up to the challenge in the deepest end of the pool.

Water Exercise

"I compare it to surfing, almost, when you balance on the noodle sometimes with both feet, sometimes with one foot and sometimes kneeling," Flynn said. "Everyone is always smiling and giggling in this class; it's like you are a little kid again."

The class begins with 10 minutes of aerobic exercise. The rest of the time is devoted to weight and resistance training. Russell keeps the pace moving, so there's little chance students will lose interest in any individual exercise.

"It's a fun class, and I like the music," said Tina McElhatton of Vienna. "He puts a lot of thought into it and explains what muscle groups you're working – things I've never heard of before. He knows what he's doing."

Russell's ability to connect with his class may stem from his personal experiences with mobility and exercise. "Years ago, I suffered a back injury and the chiropractor said I'd never be right," he recalled. "I was in my 40s at the time, and my challenge was to get moving."

He admits land exercises didn't appeal to him, "I'm flat-footed," and he had to find something that kept his attention, "I get bored easily doing the same thing day in and day out." So he plunged into water exercise classes, overcame his injury and enjoyed the activity so much, his instructor encouraged him to become certified to teach the class. Now, he's in his 60s, moves with the agility of someone half his age, and prides himself on keeping his students engaged as he has for the past seven years.

"People in this class are very attentive, and are willing to try different things" he said. "They like the faster pace, and I like to change the moves and mix it up."

It's a winning fitness strategy that has produced some amazing results. "One student who used to have to use a motorized cart at the grocery store lost more than 100 lbs. in two years, and now she walks with a normal gait," he said. "Another student who has Parkinson's disease showed significant mobility improvement with consistent water exercise."

The success stories inspire Russell to keep researching new ways to "mix it up" for interest. That alone seems to be the motivation for his students to keep coming back. "We do something a little different every time," McElhatton said. "It's fun."

Climb aboard the Burke Lake Park tour boat for a birding excursion that is sure to please year-round. Birding by boat allows you to get closer views of birds and other wildlife than you can get on foot.

"When you approach birds on land, they see you as a threat and fly away before you can get very close," said Park Authority naturalist Tony Bulmer. "They are less scared when the tour boat approaches because they don't recognize it as a human threat on water."

Burke Lake's naturalist-led Birding- on-the-Boat programs give you an hour-long opportunity to get a unique, sneak peek at birds and other wildlife, especially during the fall migration. Some of the best glimpses come as the boat approaches the island in the lake, where the birds live quite comfortably away from human interaction.

"The island is frequented by egrets and great blue herons, and there's a bald eagle's nest there," Bulmer said. "We also see wood ducks, basking turtles and other creatures that call Burke Lake home."

During the fall, Bulmer says you'll see more unusual birds, like double-crested cormorants, common mergansers and buffleheads as they migrate south to warmer climates for the winter. For some birds, Bulmer says Burke Lake is the warmer winter destination. "Loons normally live in cooler climates further north like Maine and Canada, and we see them at Burke Lake in the winter when the northern temperatures become bitterly cold," he said.

The boat leaves the dock early because the best times to look for birds are dawn and dusk. So rise and shine, grab your binoculars head to a Birding-on-the-Boat program at Burke Lake this fall for one of nature's greatest shows on earth!

Because voter turnout is expected to be very high on Election Day, and parking will be limited, Oak Marr, South Run and Spring Hill RECenters, which are designated polling places, are making the following scheduling changes for that day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016:

  • All classes scheduled from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at all three RECenters will be canceled.
  • All rentals scheduled from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. will be canceled.
Fitness rooms, swimming pools and racquetball courts will be open for training on your own. FCPS high school swim and dive practices will be held as scheduled, and the Spring Hill RECenter preschool will be open on Election Day.

Last Call for Camps

With a month left to go before school starts, there are still plenty of camp adventures that await you! From lakefront nature camps to technology and LEGO offerings, there's a camp to suit almost every interest. To learn more, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/camps/. It's a great way for kids to finish out the summer and have fun in parks.

Turn your hidden talent into an award-winner at this year's 4-H Fair and Carnival at Frying Pan Farm Park! Anyone can enter in more than a dozen categories ranging from gardening and horticulture to handcrafts and photography.

Bruce Anderson, a retired engineer from Herndon, decided to enter his handmade wooden bowls in last year's contest. "I was already familiar with 4-H because I grew up on a farm in South Dakota and we raised cattle and hogs and entered the livestock competitions through grade school," he said. "Woodworking has been a hobby of mine for the last 12 to 15 years, so I showed up with my bowls on the first day, filled out the paperwork and left the bowls to put on display."

Anderson returned to the fair a few days later with his neighbor's children to enjoy the carnival rides and to explore the contest exhibits. When they got to the woodworking area, Anderson was surprised to see that his craftsmanship was not only a first-place winner; it was awarded Best in Show.

"It was an honor, and it was really fun for the kids to see all of the agricultural exhibits, too" he said. "I think it's important for them to see things growing in their natural state and to know where their food comes from."

Anderson says he'll sit out for this year's competition, which means another grand champion will be crowned in the crafts & woodworking category. He hopes many other people will display their own handiwork in the time-honored tradition of friendly completion at the 4H fair.

"Just bring whatever you are passionate about," he said. "The more that's there, the more it will enrich the fair experience."

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