National Public Lands Day celebrates the rich natural and cultural heritage that parks and natural area bring to our communities. Every year, nature and outdoor enthusiasts alike take this time to get outside and give back to their community while enjoying their favorite parks and public lands.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of National Public Lands Day and now is the time to carve out a piece of your busy schedule to get outside and celebrate in your own way. Here are five amazing places you can recreate in throughout Northern Virginia – many of which NVCT has had a significant role in protecting and enhancing.
Right off of I-95 in Lorton, Pohick Bay Regional Park offers a wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities including water sports, a children’s waterpark, picnic shelters, scenic overlooks and a variety of camping opportunities. Virginians love their public lands and that’s why NVCT holds three conservation easements on the Mason Neck peninsula and one inside of the park. In fact, it’s the site of the largest concentration of conserved land in Fairfax County.
Photo by Sandra Garduno
A unique and scenic hidden gem located on a Potomac River bend just north of the well-known Great Falls Park, Riverbend Park offers several outdoor recreation events throughout the year, trails for hiking and educational opportunities. NVCT has protected four adjacent properties that act as an important buffer to the protected habitats within Riverbend Park and along the stream drainage that flows into Great Falls Park.
As a National Park Service unit, Prince William Forest Park has hosted generations of campers, hikers, bikers and nature lovers from all walks of life. Down I-95 between Woodbridge and Stafford, the park has protected 8,000 years of human history. From wildlife watching, cabin camping, fishing and more, Prince William Forest Park is the largest protected natural area in Northern Virginia.
NVCT is proud to hold wetland mitigation bank easements on Forest Greens Golf Club and Locust Shade Park. Both easements extend the area of protected habitat of Prince William Forest Park and protects land that is home to the state-endangered Small Whorled Pogonia.
Forest Greens Golf Club, Photo by Daniel Saltzberg
If you’re looking for athletic facilities paired with the great outdoors, look no further than James S. Long Park in Haymarket. The family-friendly park offers baseball and soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, t-ball fields, an equestrian ring, a playground, picnic pavilions, trails and even a mini-library! With several recreational options, you truly will need to spend a day in the park to take full advantage of everything it has to offer. NVCT protects more than 100 acres of an adjacent wetland mitigation area which includes the trails within the park. The protection of these trails ensures that all future Northern Virginia residents will be able to enjoy the beauty of this park.
Home to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust’s office, Annandale Community Park hosts the Fred M. Packard Center and Hidden Oaks Nature Center, which offers visitors live animal displays, exhibits, gardens, play areas, a resource library and more. The 52-acre park has picnic shelters, tennis and basketball courts, softball fields, a playground and walking trails. Just a stone’s throw from the beltway, you can escape the hustle and bustle to enjoy the mature tree canopy of the park and the wildlife that lives within its borders.
We hope to see you out there this weekend enjoying these fabulous places as much as we do!
Alan Rowsome is Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT). NVCT is the land trust of 2.9 million residents in Northern Virginia. Follow Alan Rowsome on Twitter @alanrowsome.