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Nature Fest 'Not Just for Kids'

Environmentalist and residents to learn past, present an future of Runnymede.

In 1999 the town celebrated the 10th birthday of Runnymede Park. Six years later that celebration has evolved into Nature Fest, an event that not only brings together residents to enjoy nature's beauty, but also teaches them the importance of maintaining the environment.

"I don't think people get enough opportunities to really understand how great a place like Runnymede Park is," said David Swan, president of Friends of Runnymede Park.

Swan explained that this year's event is not only geared toward allowing people to see how much fun the environment can be, but also to see how much the 58-acre park has to offer the town.

"Nature Fest is really to highlight the beauty of the park," said Swan, also chairman of the Nature Fest committee. "We bring in experts to our community to tell about the environmental community."

Swan explained the event has various themes each year, and this year, to coincide with the town's 125th anniversary, they chose the theme of Runnymede Park: Past, Present and Future.

"TO FEATURE this, we are going to show what was here once upon a time," said Swan, listing the various stations, including a demonstration by Frying Pan Park of what life was like when Runnymede was once farmed with people dressed in clothes appropriate for the time period and livestock.

"This is a great family event," said John De Noyer, environmentalist. "A lot of people think it is just for kids, but it's really for adults too."

Swan explained that although the event appears to be geared for children, many of the stations are meant to educate adults on the importance of maintaining healthy environments at home.

"It's important to us that people see the value in the park community and natural habitat," said Swan, adding he hopes the event will help people see the value in creating a nature center at the park. "We hope that people will become engaged and want to participate not only in the development of the nature center but in the events it will host."

Swan explained that once the nature center is built in Runnymede, the park will be able to offer a variety of events that will be similar to the various stations at Nature Fest, as well as allow the town to decide the various attractions they want featured.

But until then, residents will have to wait until each September for the various nature events.

THIS SUNDAY'S attractions will include 13 stations that offer everything from live raptors and snakes and turtles, to ways residents can turn their backyards into natural habitats.

Susan Lilly, Town of Herndon Naturalist, said these stations feature experts on environmental issues to help residents learn how to apply what they learn to their home environment.

"This is a way of letting people know the park is there and what resources there are out there," said Lilly. "A lot of times people have never been this up close and personal with nature."

Lilly explained that although parents may be running after their children through the various stations, the information the children are learning at stations like the stream life and water quality table where they can look at stream water under a microscope or Nature's Webb, L.L.C.'s station that shows how water from the streams eventually turns into drinking water, will teach adults about the impact their lawn water run-off could have.

"It all spills over," she said. "As we lose these areas in Northern Virginia to developments, it's so critical that we protect these habitats."

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS from the event will include Mona Miller's, or "The Butterfly Lady," butterfly tent, that will house the more than 100 Monarch butterflies she has raised to be tagged and released at the event. There will also be a live raptor demonstrations at 2 and 4 p.m., as well as rocks and fossils, hands-on activities to learn about animal form and function from skulls and bones as well as Web of Life, an interactive game that De Noyer described as a game "children love to play, and parents love to watch."

Last year the event saw about 1,200 people, and this year Swan said with the increase in volunteers, he thinks the event could also see an increase in attendance.

"We want to let people really enjoy and experience nature and the best of the Town of Herndon has to offer," said Lilly.

Swan agreed, adding that the event is set up for everyone, young and old, to learn.

"Somebody who is a total novice to the environment will have fun, as well as the experts," said Swan.