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Stake your claim to summer fun at the new Water Mine Family Swimmin' Hole at Lake Fairfax Park! The recently expanded waterpark now features family fun with age-appropriate water attractions for everyone from toddlers to teens and beyond. "It was awesome," said 8-year-old Averie Earle enthusiastically after she tried out the new body flume slides at the park when they opened late last summer. "I will definitely be back!"

The new Water Mine attractions include spraypads, climbable play structures and a tower with three body flume slides that older children enjoy. "The slides are a lot bigger than the older ones, and faster and fun for the kids," said Ashraf Quadan, who accompanied his three children, Salma, 6; Zania, 10 and Raghad, 11 to the park last summer. The new features complement the traditional water slides, spouts, showers, geysers and tubing on the Rattlesnake River that younger children have enjoyed for years.

"This is great because I have a 6-year-old and a 14-year-old and now the Water Mine can accommodate both of them," said Allyson Jurutka who accompanied her sons to the park late last summer.

Water Mine

While she and her younger son, Nate, enjoyed the features for younger children, her older son Ben took the plunge down the bigger, new body flume slides. "My favorite are the yellow and green slides," he said. "It's dark going down the slide, and you don't see the twists and turns." His buddy, 13-year-old Christian Geiger, agreed. "The new slides are pretty fast," he said. "I close my eyes while going down, and you feel this rush when you hit the water and you get water all over. It's like a surprise."

The new slides are closely supervised by well-trained lifeguards. Guards at the top of the slides help assure order as children wait in line to take their turn. They use brightly colored flags that correspond with the slide colors to communicate to the lifeguards below that the next person is about to slide down. This signals the ground-level guards to assure a safe ride by making sure no one else one else is on the slide below.

"I've been watching them, and I am very impressed with how they watch the children," said Paula Earle, who treated granddaughter Averie Earle and her two friends to a day at the Water Mine late last summer. She knew the girls were having a good time when she suggested they head home after a full day at the park.

"Are you guys ready to go?"

"No!"

"Okay. We'll stay as long as you want."

"Yay!"

Earle says the Water Mine has been a family fun destination since her children were young, and she looks forward to creating new memories here with her grandchildren for years to come. "The price is really reasonable," she said. "The picnic area is nice, we bring in our own bag lunches, snacks and drinks, and it's something we can do on weekdays."

The Water Mine opens May 28 for the 2016 season.

Explore your favorite Fairfax County lakefront park after dark this summer and learn about the creatures that swim, crawl and soar around you! The Park Authority's new lakefront nature programs are led by a naturalist who expands your horizons beyond boating, fishing and camping. "Many people already enjoy Burke Lake, Lake Accotink and Lake Fairfax parks for recreational activities," said naturalist Tony Bulmer, "and we wanted to expand our offerings so that people could also learn about the plants and wildlife that live in each park."

You may not realize it, but a lot goes on in the natural world once the sun goes down. "Bats fly at night, and they are the only true flying mammal in the world," Bulmer said. "Amphibians use the safety of night to breed, and 16 frog species call Fairfax County home. Reptiles are cold-blooded and can't control their own temperature, so to escape summer's daytime heat, they become nocturnal and roam at night."

Extend your day at the lake into the evening by registering for a program, and see bats feeding on insects at the woodland's edge or to learn the habits and habitats of the misunderstood water snake or to discover how to identify frogs and toads by their nighttime calls. See for yourself what's playing in the park after dark.

Lake Accotink Kayaking

Chart your course for a new kayaking class at Lake Accotink this summer. Learn how to captain a sit-on-top kayak, and take command of the water as you take in the spectacular scenery and the wildlife with a naturalist guide.

"The program starts in the beach area where you learn to paddle, turn, go straight and get comfortable with the kayak," said lakefront program manager Chris Goldbecker. "Then you skirt the shoreline and begin to navigate the water."

Wildlife

Some of the wildlife you can expect to see are turtles, ducks, great blue herons and possibly a bald eagle. "We know at least one bald eagle is nesting in that area, and people have seen them swooping down and catching fish in the lake," Goldbecker said.

There have also been reports of cormorants in the area. "They dive-bomb the lake and disappear under the water to catch fish, then they pop up and fly off," Goldbecker said.

Right now, the program at Lake Accotink involves single-person kayaks. Goldbecker expects it to expand to two-person kayaks later this year.

Here's your chance to rally around summer fun in parks! Plan your personal campaign strategy with this year's Park Authority Discovery Trail Map – Presidential Edition. The map features 12 distinctive sites that give students age 17 and younger the chance to discover each park's unique features and connections to U.S. Presidents or their administrations. Visit eight or more parks on the Discovery Trail Map and you'll win tickets to more park fun valued at more that $80. You'll also be entered in a    drawing for one of three bicycles.        Maps will be available at any           staffed Park Authority location,             at any Fairfax County Public               Library and online at                 www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks                beginning Saturday, May 28.

Now you can get in a workout and make sure your children are supervised at the same time! In response to a growing demand, drop-in childcare is now offered at both Oak Marr and South Run RECenters.

"We implemented our childcare program last November, and within weeks, I had to add extra staff because we had so many extra children," said South Run fitness director Laurie Strickland. "Now we are looking at expanding the program."

The cost for up to 90 minutes of childcare is $3 for the first child and $1.50 for each additional child. Hours vary by location:

Oak Marr RECenter Childcare

Mon. – Thur. 8:30 a.m – 12:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Fri. 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Sat. 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

South Run Recenter Childcare

Tue., Thur. and Fri. 9:00 a.m. – noon
Tue. and Thur. 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Childcare was first offered at Oak Marr RECenter after it was renovated in 2014.

Big Links

Big Links or Mini Links?

Whether you're game is regulation golf or mini golf, you'll want to take advantage of our summer specials! Now through May 10, save up to 25% on golf rounds by purchasing 5- 10- or 15-round frequent player passes at participating FCPA golf courses. For details, see the ad in the Golf section.

Mini Links

Mini golf fans are sure to cheer about the School's Out Special at Jefferson Falls Mini Golf course in Falls Church. Beginning May 28, use the ad on page 152 of Parktakes as your ticket to 2-for-1 mini golf and a gift card for $10 off your group's check at the nearby Original Pancake House. What better way to celebrate the end of the school year and the start of summer?

The Virginia Dental Association is teaming up with the Fairfax County Park Authority to bring its mobile dental chair to two FCPA RECenters to offer free dental screenings. So stop by, take a seat and brush up on your dental health report card. Your two-minute timeout could save your life.

Dentist Chair

 

 

Friday, July 22
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Providence RECenter
7525 Marc Dr.
Falls Church VA 22042
703-698-1351

Friday, Aug. 12
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
South Run RECenter
7550 Reservation Dr.
Springfield, VA 22153
703-866-0566

Pickleball – A Game for All Ages

It is noon on Tuesday at the Spring Hill RECenter gym, and people are all smiles learning how to play the game with a quirky name – pickleball. The racquet sport combines elements of badminton, tennis and ping pong for a family-friendly fun time.

Pickle Ball

"Pickleball is a very fun, social game and can be played by people of all ages," said Helen White, who teaches a pickleball class at Spring Hill RECenter. "It's easy to learn, easy on the body and a great way to work on cardio, balance and strength."

In pickleball, two, three, or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a wiffle ball, over a net. The sport shares features of other racquet sports, the dimensions and layout of a badminton court, and a net and rules similar to tennis, with a few modifications. "You play to 11 points, and you only score if you are serving," White said. "You can play singles or doubles, and most people prefer to play doubles." A game can be played in about 15 minutes.

It's said that necessity is the mother of invention, and you could say that's what inspired the game. "Pickleball was invented in the mid-1960s by a couple of dads in Washington State who returned home after playing a game of golf one Saturday afternoon to find their families were bored," White said. "They tried to set up badminton, but no one could find the birdie, so they improvised with a wiffle ball, lowered the net and fabricated paddles of plywood from a nearby shed."

It didn't take long for pickleball to catch on. In 1976, Tennis magazine called it "America's newest racquet sport," and in 1984, the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) formed to promote the sport across the world. Today, an estimated 2.9 million players enjoy the game at approximately 4000 locations across the country, and now you can learn to play the game at Spring Hill and Audrey Moore RECenters.

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