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Caring for All Reston Residents

Best of Reston honoree improves the lives of humans, animals and plants in Reston.

Second in a series of profiles of those honored as The Best of Reston.

She decided to devote her life to the natural environment after attending a science camp in fourth grade. "I knew at that time this was my destiny," said Claudia Thompson-Deahl.

"I am in amazing company," said Thompson-Deahl, speaking of her selection as one of the Best of Reston honorees. "I am really honored and kind of embarrassed to be among such great company," she said.

Thompson-Deahl was selected for the Best of Reston Award because of her commitment to all living things in Reston, "Caring for Reston's Natural Environment." Since 1982, she has been the Environmental Resource Manager at Reston Association (RA), where she dedicates her time to preserving the natural spaces the Reston community was planned around in the 1960s. She said 80 percent of Reston's residents moved here because of the trees. Preserving the natural areas, said Thompson-Deahl, is one more way to draw the community together.

As the Environmental Resource Manager, Thompson-Deahl is responsible for environmental activities of 1,300 acres of natural areas. Among others, her responsibilities include reforesting and meadow management, control of nuisance and exotic species, erosion and wildlife issues and a variety of tasks related to Reston's four lakes, two ponds, and 19 miles of stream corridor.

Under her leadership, Reston received numerous recognitions for its natural environment. It was the third community in the United States to be awarded the designation of Community Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Reston was also the first-place winner of the America in Bloom and International Communities in Bloom award. She played a major role in establishing the Freedom Grove, a tribute to those who perished Sept. 11, 2001, in the terrorist attacks on the United States. The Freedom Grove, near Brown's Chapel, also serves as a memorial to Reston residents who died serving their country in Iraq.

EVEN THOUGH RESTON has received numerous national and international awards for its natural environment, Thompson-Deahl continues to work hard on Reston's green spaces. She works on creating natural buffers between trails and soccer fields, or fields and roads, by planting trees. She said most of the planting is now done, and the process of plant maintenance and health care is now in the works. She enjoys looking at the forests and meadows the community has created, most of it under her leadership. Thompson-Deahl said she learned a valuable lesson from her old boss, Vicky Wingart, currently a member of the RA Board of Directors, to surround herself with good people. "I certainly have followed that example," said Thompson-Deahl.

"She's a fantastic boss," said Kevin Munroe, environmental resource specialist with the RA. Munroe said Thompson-Deahl always gives her staff opportunities for recognition and to be involved in projects. Everyone who works with her, said Munroe, realizes just how big her heart is. He said he did not know anyone more connected in the environmental community than Thompson-Deahl, saying that environmental conferences in other states are full of people who know her. "This is her life, this is her passion," he said. Munroe added that she is a pleasure to work with and the residents of Reston are incredibly lucky to have someone like her working on their natural areas.

THOMPSON-DEAHL ATTENDED West Virginia University. She became the first woman firefighter in the western region in 1975, when she worked for the Bureau of Land Management in Montana. Thompson-Deahl gave presentations at numerous conferences and attended a number of seminars on natural area usage and preservation. She was born in Amityville, N.Y., and came to Reston in 1982. "Because it was a community that likes nature," she said, "that's why I came." During her time in Reston, she authored "The Nature of Reston," a book that guides the reader through Reston's natural resources through her narrative and photography by Charles Veatch.

In the near future, Thompson-Deahl is hoping to raise enough money to fund the building of the Nature House at Reston's Nature Center, a 70-acre plot of land, offering naturalist-led walks among other things. She would like to see a new building replace the existing one at the Nature Center, because it cannot be used in the winter. In effect, local schools cannot do field trips in winter months, while the center is booked through spring and fall with field trips from different schools and organizations. Thompson-Deahl is hoping to attract corporate donations for the Nature House, because every time enough funds are raised, the cost of construction and materials rises.

At the RA Board of Directors Meeting Thursday, Jan. 27, Wingart said she could not think of anyone more deserving than Thompson-Deahl for the Best of Reston Award.