A Sign for the Times — and Events

A Sign for the Times — and Events

Donation yields potential prototype for Fairfax County parks.

Happenings at Lee District Park are now announced electronically thanks to the generosity of one of Fairfax County's primary park and recreation benefactors.

Clemens Gailliot, Jr, president, Hilltop Sand and Gravel Company, Inc., has donated more than $183,000 to parks since 1991. Over the past nine years, he has contributed more than $114,000 to Lee District Park.

His latest gift was used to purchase an electronic sign that is situated on a knoll at the park's entrance off Telegraph Road at Rose Hill Drive. It broadcasts a constant message on park events as well as welcoming visitors to the 137-acre facility.

"We don't tell them (parks and recreation) what to do with the money. We just make the contributions and they decide on their needs," Gailliot said at the dedication ceremony last Wednesday.

"Clemens Gailliot is just one of those people you want to be around. He sets the standard for being a good neighbor, especially to parks," Dana Kauffman, Lee District supervisor, said.

THE NEW SIGN, which cost more than $50,000, enables park personnel to alert the public to any changes in the availability of park facilities or events, according to Leon Plenty, manager, Lee District Park.

"The sign is designed to be programmed remotely. I can even do it from home. That way if the park is closed for some reason such as snow or an event date or site is changed, we can alert the public immediately. Hopefully, this will be a prototype for parks throughout the county," Plenty said.

"For almost two decades, his philosophy for his family's business enterprises has been to give back to the community in recognition and thanks for the community's long support. It's a mantra. It's sort of a calling. It's Clemens way, just like his dad," Kauffman said. Clemens Gailliot, Sr., set the example by donating to Frying Pan Park in Herndon, according to Kauffman. "It is the last working farm in Northern Virginia. It's the last place to visit chickens and pet ponies and discover where eggs really come from," he said. "The senior Gailliot always wanted to do more, and so his son is carrying out those wishes."

Gailliot's contributions have gone for improvements that provide long-term benefits to the park's many users, Kauffman noted. "For example, a storage room was renovated and now serves as a place for children's parties. It is also a place for an occasional class when space gets tight," he said.

Other Gailliot donations have gone for equipment such as kayaks and aerobic carpeting; entrance doors and lounge furniture; special events such as the Wildlife Art and Photography Show; Draft Horse and Spring Farming Days; and the annual presentation of the Park Service Awards recognizing outstanding volunteers.

GAILLIOT'S PHILANTHROPY has also encompassed PACT, Parks and Community Together. A scholarship program, it sends children living in the county's homeless shelters to Park Authority camps during the summer.

Lee District Summer Concerts' redesigned and remodeled amphitheater can be attributed to Gailliot's generosity, Kauffman said. "His contributions made possible a new 5,100-square-foot lighted stage area and lighted seating for up to 250 people, an 800-square-foot viewing area for disabled individuals and a paved parking lot that is enjoyed by the public and allows those in wheelchairs to navigate from the parking area to the viewing area," he said.

"The Gailliot's tradition of giving is not limited to parks. Clemens Gailliot, Jr, has provided $26,000 to the Friends of Huntley Mansion to create a restoration plan for Lee District's 19th century plantation house and has established scholarships at Hayfield High School and George Mason University in memory of his father who passed away in 1991," Kauffman said.

"The senior Gailliot was a self-made man forced to drop out of high school in order to support his family. But, he always appreciated the value of education and stressed the need to be a serious attentive student. The scholarships in his name recognize and honor those beliefs," Kauffman said.

Gailliot, Jr, was recently honored by the Park Foundation with the prestigious Elly Doyle Park Service Award. "Mr. Gailliot is the epitome of a good neighbor. And he makes it look so easy," Kauffman said.