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NOVA Parks (formerly named Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) is an inter-jurisdictional organization that owns and operates more than 10,000 acres of woodlands, streams, parks, trails, nature reserves, countryside and historic sites in Northern Virginia in the United States. The Authority was organized in 1959. NOVA Parks presently operates 30 regional parks.
A 12-member policy-making Board governs NOVA Parks. The city council or county board of each member jurisdiction appoints two representatives to the Board. Three counties (Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun) and three cities (Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax) currently have representation on the Board.
NOVA Parks was founded in 1959, when Arlington and Fairfax Counties and the City of Falls Church decided to create an agency to protect the drinking water sources of the area, as well to provide passive recreation.
NOVA Parks purchased its first parkland shortly thereafter in Centreville, VA from Gardiner Means and his wife Caroline F. Ware, in what would become Bull Run Regional Park. The pair later donated their farm home in Vienna, VA, which would eventually become Meadowlark Botanical Gardens.
Within its first decade of existence, NOVA Parks conserved over 3,000 acres. In the ten years that followed, that number was approximately 8,000 acres.
NOVA Parks then added sites in Clifton, VA, the City of Fairfax, VA, Fairfax County, Arlington and Alexandria, VA in the 1960s. The agency welcomed Loudoun County, VA in the 1970s. The latter arrangement would lead to the addition of several key sites, including what would become Algonkian Regional Park on the Potomac River, as well as Red Rock Overlook, Temple Hall Farm and Ball's Bluff Battlefield and National Cemetery.
NOVA Parks manages many parks with great historical significance, including a grand 18th century mansion, a Civil War battlefield, a 19th-century grist mill, a 200-year-old working farm, a Civil War era church, and many more. These historical landmarks see an incredible annual flux of visitors, as literally thousands make their way through various hallowed halls and fields.
Major venues include Carlyle House, the former Alexandria, Virginia home of British merchant John Carlyle; Ball's Bluff Battlefield and National Cemetery, a park in Leesburg, VA that was the site of a Civil War conflict in 1861; Mt. Zion Church and the adjacent Gilbert’s Corner Regional Park, in Aldie, VA which were used as a Civil War military rendezvous site, prison, barracks, battleground and hospital; and Aldie Mill Historic Park, a restored mill, with an imposing four-story brick structure with tandem metal Water wheels. Other venues include a kiln used by female prisoners from the Lorton Reformatory during the Women's suffrage Movement, as well Temple Hall Farm and White’s Ford Regional Park, located on the farm formerly owned by Elijah V. White.
NOVA Parks boasts a total of five waterparks – a varied group of offerings ranging from the somewhat modest to the somewhat elaborate, all of which are well positioned across the region, including Atlantis Waterpark at Bull Run Regional Park (Centreville), Great Waves Waterpark at Cameron Run Regional Park (Alexandria), Pirate’s Cove Waterpark at Pohick Bay Regional Park (Lorton, VA), Ocean Dunes Waterpark at Upton Hill Regional Park (Arlington) and Volcano Island Waterpark at Algonkian Regional Park (Sterling, VA).
NOVA Parks boasts three 18-hole golf courses, including Algonkian, Brambleton and Pohick Bay. Each has a style and a charm all their own – a unique look and feel that offers three distinctly different layouts. Each are Audubon International certified, in keeping with the environmental standards set forth by the agency.
The regional parks and other features administered by NOVA Parks include:
- Bull Run Regional Park
- Ball's Bluff Battlefield and National Cemetery
- Hemlock Overlook Regional Park
- Bull Run Marina
- Fountainhead Regional Park
- Sandy Run Regional Park
- Occoquan Regional Park
- Pohick Bay Regional Park
- Gateway Regional Park
- Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
- Upton Hill Regional Park
- Cameron Run Regional Park
- Carlyle House Historic Park
- Potomac Overlook Regional Park
- Algonkian Regional Park
- Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park
- Brambleton Regional Park
- Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park
- Ball's Bluff Battlefield Regional Park
- Temple Hall Farm Regional Park