January 17, 2017
NOVA Parks
Did you know that funds at the Community Foundation are not just for individual donors? Paul Gilbert is the Executive Director of NOVA Parks, a regional nonprofit organization that recently opened two funds to support its work: the NOVA Parks Fund and the Outdoor Kids Fund. Read our interview with him to see how how we partner with local nonprofit organizations through dedicated funds at the Community Foundation.

Can you tell us about the mission and scope of work of NOVA Parks?

NOVA Parks is the best of Northern Virginia through nature, history, and great family experiences. We are a regional park system that represents three counties and three cities - Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Falls Church and the City of Fairfax.

NOVA Parks owns and operates 32 parks with over 12,000 acres of land offering something for everyone. A NOVA Parks park is a unique natural and historic place that has been preserved and, in many cases, enhanced with recreational facilities such as golf courses, waterparks, campgrounds, trails and access to waterways. Many of our parks offer educational opportunities, such as our 1753 historic home, working farm, nature center, botanical garden and Civil War battlefield. Amidst the region’s rapid and widespread development, we offer scenic overlooks and quiet, green spaces.

Why did NOVA Parks choose to partner with the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia?

The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s mission to meet the critical needs of the region aligns perfectly with NOVA Parks’ goal of giving back to the local community and helping youth and their families. Through the Outdoor Kids Fund and the NOVA Parks Fund that have been established, NOVA Parks has been given the opportunity to create and expand programs that engage children in meaningful outdoor experiences and a venue to improve and conserve Northern Virginia’s special natural and historic places and parklands.

How does your fund at the Community Foundation benefit your organization?

The Outdoor Kids Fund will provide local grants to support children engaging in nature at our parks. Grants awarded to elementary schools, park and recreation departments and non-profits in Northern Virginia, will help support outdoor teambuilding and nature education and science education at our parks, in an effort to help children engage with nature in meaningful ways. Our fund at the Community Foundation gives us a great opportunity to fulfill our mission, while giving support to those in our community who need it.

What does it mean to you to support local critical needs?

One of the critical needs that exists is that of getting children outdoors. Physically, emotionally, and mentally, children need outdoor play to develop, and they are getting less and less of it in our society. With all the attractions of screen time, getting children outside like countless generations before them is a challenge.

Not only are nature and outdoor play good for children, children are critical to the long-term future of parks and nature, since we need the next generation to appreciate our public spaces as much as previous generations have.

What are your organization’s current priorities / programs?

Through our Outdoor Kids Program, we are bringing school groups into our parks for environmental education and teambuilding. We will also be helping to support summer camps to bring more children to our 5 excellent water parks in the region.

Through our NOVA Parks Fund, we will partner with philanthropists to help continue to grow the only regional park system in Virginia. NOVA Parks has been a leader in parks for over 57 years. In the last ten years, this award winning park system has grown its base of parkland by over 20%. Numerous new facilities and programs are in the works. The NOVA Parks Fund allows donors to help with this growth and development of this great regional park system in Northern Virginia.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Since NOVA Parks was built on a foundation of conservation/preservation, many generous donors have played a critical role in the growth and development of this 12,000+ acre regional park system. Many well-known parks have been fully, or partially, donated to NOVA Parks over the years including: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Temple Hall Farm, Aldie Mill, Webb and Rust Sanctuaries, Ball’s Bluff Battlefield, as well as lands on Mason Neck, McLean, Middleburg and other areas.

No other park system in our region has more land along our major rivers than NOVA Parks. From Native American, to Colonial, Civil War, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and more, the great historical sites of NOVA Parks tell the story of America. And, with the W&OD and many miles of other trails, NOVA Parks is helping to make the Northern Virginia region more connected than ever before.