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Swing into action this spring at Fairfax County’s new zip line and high ropes course near South Run RECenter in Springfield. The new Go Ape adventure course opens to the public on May 5 and gives you a fully immersive outdoor activity with a thrilling view of the park’s forest canopy! The new adventure course was developed through a unique revenue-sharing partnership between the Park Authority and Go Ape.

The fun begins when participants ascend a rope ladder, or fisherman’s trap, which leads to a set of obstacles and ends with a zip line bringing guests back to the forest floor. Each site gets progressively more challenging and the zip lines get longer.

Course features include suspended obstacles 20 to 40 feet up in the forest canopy, nine zip lines and a specially designed course for children. It can accommodate beginners as well as skilled outdoor enthusiasts, and the entire course takes between one and three hours to complete, depending on the selected route – Treetop Adventure or Junior. All adventure course users are required to first participate in a comprehensive, 20-minute safety training session.

So mark your calendar for May 5 to Go Ape at South Run Park! To learn more, or to book your adventure, visit www.goape.com.

Golfers will feel right at home on this range – the newest amenity at Burke Lake Golf Center. At press time, the new 64-station, doubledecker driving range was scheduled to open by April 15, and players could hardly wait to get in some practice time at the new facility.

“The golf course has remained open through the construction, and our patrons have watched the new facility emerge from start to finish,” said Burke Lake Golf Center Manager Lewis Musolf. “Everyone is really excited.”

“I cannot wait to have this place open,” said LPGA Professional Kate Via, who is the Head Professional at Burke Lake Golf Academy. The new, lighted range will be open daily from sunrise to 10 p.m., and Via says its 24 heated stalls will give players expanded practice and learning options year round. “This is a game changer because it will allow us to customize instruction from private individual and group lessons to classes and camps year round, making every season golf season.”

The range and expanded parking lot are just the beginning of Burke Lake Golf Center’s first major upgrade since it opened in 1970. The next phase includes a brand new clubhouse featuring an expanded pro shop, an updated dining area and a shaded patio with outdoor seating. Wi-Fi access will also be available from the buildings to the driving range. All construction is expected to be completed by December 2017.

Peer into the night sky through one of three, powerful telescopes at Observatory Park at Turner Farm in Great Falls, and embark on an amazing journey into our solar system. From the moon to the stars to meteors and more, you’ll be amazed at the places you can explore from the roll top observatory.

“It was pretty cool because you got to see two double stars out there, and Venus,” said Vienna 9-yearold Drew Wilbricht enthusiastically during one of the first astronomy programs held at the new observatory. “I also learned more about the moon and Mars and Venus. There’s a volcano on Mars, the biggest in the galaxy, and it’s three times the height of Mount Everest.”

Cillian Gray, a 7-year-old from Fairfax, was equally impressed. “I got to see different constellations and planets and what they look like in the telescope,” he said. “In pictures, it doesn’t look the same.”

The new astronomy programs at Turner farm are the result of a partnership between the Fairfax County Park Authority and knowledgeable volunteer scientists from the Analemma Society. Together they share their expertise to help bring context to the world beyond Earth’s stratosphere.

“Venus is considered a sister planet, but we wouldn’t want to live there,” said Park Authority instructor Tammy Schwab to the attentive students of all ages. “It’s very hot there, and it rains acid, and the air pressure would crush a spaceship within an hour.”

Adults who attended the program appreciated the level of instruction they received as well as the opportunity to “escape” to another world.

“The strength of the telescopes and the knowledge of the staff is great,” said Drew’s mother, Alison Wilbricht, who was eager to participate in the program with her son. “It’s really nice to step out of the craziness of life and look at the stars. It’s a great respite.”

From water fun to adventure to camps, golf and more, there are so many ways to play in parks; you could schedule a different activity for every day of summer!

Lake Fairfax Park’s new pump track offers fun for cyclists of all ages and skill levels. The name comes from the pumping motion used by the rider’s upper and lower body. All you really need is a bike with knobby tires and a safety helmet. It’s a great workout and lots of fun!

If you’re into fun and games, you’ll love playing mini golf at any of the Park Authority’s four courses, not to mention riding on a carousel or a train, or jumping on a wagon for a hayride. Travel on the water in a pedal boat at Lake Accotink or Burke Lake, or rent a canoe or kayak at Riverbend Park and enjoy the view of nature at the water’s edge.

If water fun is more your style, make a summer splash at the Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, or sail into Our Special Harbor sprayground at Lee District Park, or take a break from the summer sun and plunge into a pool at all nine Fairfax County Park Authority RECenters.

Take a hike in our scenic parks and check out seasonal blooms, birds and tall timber along the way. There are more than 400 miles of trails in Fairfax County, and you can map your route with the Park Authority’s Trail Buddy mapping tool. Visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/ trails and plan your route today!

Just in time for Fairfax County’s 275th birthday, the Park Authority’s Discovery Trial Map reveals milestone moments in the history of 12 distinctive, Fairfax County parks! This year, both adults and children are encouraged to pick up a map and chart the course to discover each park’s unique features. Visit eight sites and get a prize pack with tickets to more summer fun such as mini golf, camping, RECenter admission and boat, train and carousel rides – a $93 value! Plus, you’ll also be entered in a drawing for one of four bicycles donated by Spokes, Etc. and Trek through the Fairfax County Park Foundation.

Maps will be available by mid-May at any staffed Park Authority location, at any Fairfax County Public Library and online at Discovery Trial Map. The promotion runs May 29 – Sept. 4. Winners will be announced in the fall issue of Parktakes.

Bring out the flavor of summer with a juicy peach or a tangy tomato from your nearest Fairfax County farmers market. Each year from May to December, local farmers markets come to life with a feast for the senses, from the vibrant colors of freshly picked fruits and vegetables to the aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries and the fragrant perfume of cut flowers.

Produce at the farmer’s market is generally picked at the peak of ripeness when the plant’s natural sugars are at their highest. The result is fresh, greattasting produce with the best nutrition possible. Add farmers’ market produce to your cooking, and you’ll be amazed at the difference in flavor and texture.

All products at our markets are produced by vendors with 125 miles of Fairfax County, so you can be assured that the produce you purchase at all 11 Park Authority farmers markets is fresh, locally-grown and consistently good. For farmers market locations and hours, see the ad in the Gardening section. To learn more about the vendors at specific farmers markets, visit Farmers Markets

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