Skip Navigation LinksHome News Ask Fairfax! Archived Discussion Room
Park Authority Q&A Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Park Authority Q&A

Join Park Authority Director John Dargle Jr., for an online discussion about our parks system. It's an opportunity for park lovers, critics and people with a great idea or two to get instant feedback on park topics. The Fairfax County Park Authority is a tremendous asset to the community with more than 23,000 acres of parkland, nine recenters, golf courses, historic sites, more than 250 miles of trails, and over 400 parks. You can enjoy lakes or ball fields, and nature centers or swimming pools.

John Dargle, Jr : Good Morning Fairfax County! I am your Fairfax County Park Authority Director, John Dargle. It is an honor to serve you and be a part of an outstanding park system.  Come out and enjoy the wonderful world of parks and recreation, you will be amazed at all the great things we have in Fairfax County.  The Benefits are endlesss....

Lilly : Some of your park classes fill up so quickly that's it's nearly impossible to get signed up for some. I've been trying for more than year to get some classes for my children, but by the time I get home to logon, the classes are filled within the first hours. I work all day and can't get access until I get home. Isn't there a fairer way to do registration that doesn't discriminate against those of us who work full time? Maybe start registration at 8 p.m. or something?

John Dargle, Jr :

Unfortunately, there is no single start time for registration that would satisfy everyone’s needs.  The 5 a.m. start time (via the internet or by calling an operator) does allow most people an opportunity to register prior to going to work.  And though children’s aquatic classes do fill up very quickly, the vast majority of class takers don't have to register on the first day - and certainly not in the first few hours that the system is open - in order to get their first-choice classes. Here is some information from a previous term to help you decide if you can afford to avoid the early morning crush:

  • Less than 8% of classes filled on the first day of registration.
  • By the end of the second day, still less than 11% of classes had filled.
  • Programs that did fill most frequently on opening day: Just over 17% of all Aquatics programs, but particularly youth swimming classes at Oak Marr (39%), Cub Run (22%) and South Run (16%).
  • Not counting Aquatics programs, less than 2% of classes filled on the first day of registration.

Barry D. : In these tight economic times, why do people who live in other counties or DC get the advantage to use Fairfax parks for free? I'm not suggesting that all parks have a residency requirement (so if you're not a citizen of Fairfax, then you pay), but for some of your major ones. It seems like the prudent thing to do.

John Dargle, Jr :


There was a time in the past when park entrance fees were in effect for Lake Fairfax for out of county residents. The gate fee at Lake Fairfax was eliminated when the Water Mine opened because it was determined this was a regional destination and the gate fee alongside the admission fee to the waterpark would make it cost prohibitive.  Currently Burke Lake Park has a seasonal gate fee for weekends and holidays for out of county residents.  It has become more costly to provide staffing for the other larger parks which include resource based parks, nature centers, preserves and other primarily sports based parks.


Anonymous User : Clemyjontri is such a great, unique park. Can you build one in the western part of the county? It's a long haul some days from Chantilly to get to McLean amid naptime and other things on weekends.

John Dargle, Jr :

We agree that Clemyjontri is a wonderful unique experience for families.  It was created as a result of the vision of the Liebowitz family who donated the parkland on the condition of creating such a park.  We are creating an equally vibrant park experience in the Family Recreation Area of Lee District Park with the opening last summer of Our Special Harbor Sprayground, an Accessible Tree House and the future Chessie’s Backyard playground.   The western part of the County does enjoy the only Indoor leisure entertainment pool featuring two water slides and a water playground at Cub Run RECenter.  We hope that you enjoy this unique feature located nearby.  As we plan parks in the western part of the County, we can look at appropriate sites where such a facility might be suitable. This can be a long process that includes park master planning, assigning funding and finally construction and opening of facilities. 

Mrs. Dargle : Any chance Mr. Dargle will be home for dinner this evening?? : ) Seriously, thanks for all you do John!! I'm your biggest fan!!!

John Dargle, Jr : Mrs. Dargle, it depends, what's for dinner?

Maura : My fiancee and I absolutely love biking on the Fairfax Cross County Trail and on the mountain biking trails at Laurel Hill Park, which we think is the best hidden gem in all of the Fairfax parks. So first I want to thank the Park Authority for its leadership in expanding access to off-road trails for cyclists! My question is, do you have plans to develop additional mountain biking and/or off-road trails in other Fairfax parks?

John Dargle, Jr :

Hi Maura!

Thank you for your interest in Fairfax County Park Authority Trails. Trails are the most used recreation facility type in Fairfax County.  The Park Authority recognizes the need for expanding the existing trail system to meet this need including development of mountain biking and general purpose trails.  Most recently mountain biking trails have been improved at Lake Fairfax Park in partnership with the Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts (MORE).  MORE has also worked with the Park Authority to improve mountain biking trails at Wakefield Park and Lake Accotink.  Additional trails are planned at Laurel Hill and a trails plan for the 3,000 acres comprising Sully Woodlands in the western portion of the county is in development.

Anonymous User : How is it going to be possible to create meaningful park space in Tysons? It seems like it's going to be full of concrete, buildings and Metro. Obviously we won't have a Central Park like NYC but I fail to see how abundant green space will be provided that's attractive and numerous enough for all of the people expected to live in Tysons. We'll have to get in our cars and drive to a meaningful park. How will you accomplish this since it seems like developers want to monetize every last square inch of land there. Thanks.

John Dargle, Jr :

Hello Anonymous,

It is very hard to envision Tysons in 2025 or 2050 based on what is happening there now.  Change will take decades to occur and keep in mind that the Comprehensive Plan for Tysons Corner requires that all redevelopment provide new park spaces and walkable, well designed streets that connect public spaces and parks. In addition, redevelopment must provide active recreation facilities such as athletic fields.   Currently, there is approximately 20 rezoning applications under review in Tysons and county staff is working with the applicants to ensure that adequate new park space is provided in their redevelopment plans.  As each redevelopment application is reviewed by the County, Park Authority staff participates on the Tysons review team to ensure that the Tysons park system gets implemented through the redevelopment process.  As a result of our participation in the review, applicants are pretty clear on the County’s expectations for parks and facilities.  Creative urban park initiatives may include rooftop parks, unique programming areas, recreation facilities and program space provided within commercial buildings, or redevelopment at nearby existing parks.

 Additional information about the Tysons Plan and how it addresses the need for new urban parks is available on the County web site:


Mark : Are there any plans to build new or substantially renovate Recenters?

John Dargle, Jr :

Good Morning Mark,

The Park Authority’s recent Capital Development Program has included funding to replace mechanical systems, roofs and other building systems at our aging RECenters. This work although not necessarily visible to our patrons was necessary to keep the RECenters operational and has been completed to date.  Several projects to expand existing RECenters including renovations are being considered for a proposed voter approved Park Bond in November 2012.


Dillon : More synthetic turf fields, please! Please! And please, more enforcement of people who aren't scheduled on grass fields to stay off -- they ruin the grass for those who do go through the proper channels. Thanks.

John Dargle, Jr :

Hey Dillon,

The Park Board along with the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services’ (NCS) Athletic Council adopted a new athletic field use regulation which limits groups to 20 players without a permit.  Also, NCS has a field monitor program that is responsible for enforcement.  We anticipate an update to the program in January.


The Park Authority continues to seek ways to convert existing grass fields to synthetic turf and develop new synthetic turf fields.  We are doing this through a variety of funding sources including Park Bonds, partnering with user groups and seeking developer proffers.  Several synthetic turf field conversion projects are being considered for funding in the proposed voter approved 2012 Park Bond in November.

amy in fairfax : i only recently discovered the cross county trail, yet i've lived here for awhile. it seems like that compared with other trails like w&od, the cross county trail isn't well known or well marked or visible. i've only been on a small part of it, so maybe other sections are clear, but it seems to be a hidden jewel that may be suffering from poor signage and publicity.

John Dargle, Jr : Dear Amy,

Thank you for your interest in the Fairfax County Park Authority Cross County Trail (CCT). The 42-mile CCT is continuous public right-of-way from Great Falls National Park on the Potomac River to Occoquan Regional Park on the Occoquan River.  The trail is an amalgam of several existing trails and on-road routes.  It is comprised of multiple surface types for all users although in a general sense the northern end is mostly natural surface and the middle section tends to be hard surfaced.  Information about the CCT can be found on the FCPA website at  .   The trail has more than 1,000 markers over it’s length and more than a dozen interpretive/information signs.  The Park Authority is always looking to improve the signage and information about the trail. 


Four types of signs are used to mark the CCT. All have the CCT logo in red. There is a tan recycled four by four plastic post with the logo -- these signs are installed so that the logo side faces the trail, parallel to it. There are brown fiberglass markers that are installed perpendicular to the trail and may include red arrows, indicating angle of turn on the trail. If there is a fork or intersection in the trail, these signs should show you which way to go. If there is no sign, generally stay on the trail you are on. A shorter brown fiberglass marker looks the same as the markers described above, but includes numerals to indicate the distance in miles from the Potomac River, southbound. Both miles and half-miles are marked except where the trail is not located on FCPA land. A fourth type of sign is a six inch by six inch aluminum square that is used along road right-of-ways and on the grounds of Great Falls Park. Additionally, the brown markers with road names are installed near roads that don't have another easily visible sign identifying them. Trailhead signs for each of the ten sections have been installed, with an additional sign planned for the LHG. These signs include a map of the trail section and a "you are here" star. Interpretive signs are also located along the trail on FCPA land.


A complete collection of Maps for the CCT can be found at the following link

Anonymous User : On my iPad, I have an app from the History Channel about "This Day in Civil War History", which often features exciting information about Civil War happenings 150 years ago here in Fairfax County. Beyond the re-enactments of the Battles of Dranesville and Balls Bluff that happened earlier this year at one of the Northern Virginia Regional Parks, are there plans for civil-war related programs at Fairfax parks/historical sites in the next year? I have a student in an FCPS public school studying civil war history this year (Grade 4), and I'm surprised that all of her field trips this year are out of the county. Both for our family and for her class, I'd love to see more historical happenings locally!

John Dargle, Jr :

The Park Authority has partnered with 24 other organizations and is co-chairing the county’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee with FX VA (Visit Fairfax) to plan and manage the many activities and events being held to commemorate the anniversary.  This committee lists all events and activities for the entire county and provides great information on the Civil War in Fairfax County on the FXVA website at


Anonymous User : Why don't you allow people to pay deposits or use a payment when signing up for summer camps other than RecPAC? My kids participate in camps all summer long at the RECenters, but it's increasingly hard to pay several thousand dollars up front in April to guarantee their spaces.

John Dargle, Jr : We have never done payment plans, however, we are in the process of developing an electronic fund transfer capability. We anticipate that this program will be in place within the next year.  

Anonymous User : What are some new trends in parks that may be coming to Fairfax?

John Dargle, Jr :

Here are some trends that come to mind…

·         Pay for Play – unfortunately, due to extreme funding stresses this is becoming more prevalent nationwide.

·         Sustainable design – for budgetary and environmental reasons this is becoming more common in both designing new facilities and retro-fitting old.

·         Fitness/community wellness – more people are becoming interested in healthy living, parks play a part.  Constantly updating our fitness offerings  (BodyPump is example of latest) and becoming more involved with community wellness (Take12 Fitness).

·         Turf fields – need for maximizing use per field to make limited resources go farther and improved playing conditions has spurred this trend.

·         Trails – some oldies, but goodies never go away.  Trails are among highest used portions of park system in every community in the country.

·         Kids programs explosion – even during recession, summer camp programs in particular continued to expand in popularity.  The Park Authority has more than 100 summer camp experiences (double what we had a decade ago) to keep up with parents’ demand for variety.

·         Outdoor adventure – We are trying with expanded water offerings at Riverbend Park (kayaks, canoes), mountain bike trails, high ropes course, and adventure racing!

Anonymous User : Anything new going on with any of the golf courses for 2012?

John Dargle, Jr : We anticipate a push for increasing junior golf across the system, seeking Audubon certifications at all our courses, and promoting off peak discounts. Pending November 2012 voter approved park bond funding, we are planning capital projects at Twin Lakes (clubhouse, putting/piching surface) and Burke Lake (clubhouse, driving range).  Also, the Park Authority is in the midst of completing a National Golf Foundation study to include service delivery, capital projects, and organization efficiencies.

Stacey McCuin : What is the procedure for requesting a playground installation at Woodlawn Little League fields? There are so many siblings at the games and there is nowhere for them to safely play.

John Dargle, Jr : Hey Now Stacey,
Please contact your Park Board member, Mr. Linwood Gorham, to initiate the process at

John Dargle, Jr : Hey Now! Thank you for all your questions.  This has been a terrific means of communication. I apologize for not being able to answer all the comments, however, please join us on our next bi-monthly roadshow, the Listening Forum, on February 16, 7pm, Nottoway Park or reach us at