National Recreation and Parks Association officials had their annual meeting in Reston last week but took some time to get to know the area a little better with a reception at Colvin Run Mill Park Thursday afternoon.
"Every year we have our spring Board of Trustees meeting, which consists of about 60 delegates from around the country, half of which are volunteers and the other half are professional park employees," said Ron Lehman, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Recreation and Parks Association.
The reception was held at Colvin Run Mill "because we were invited," he said with a chuckle. "We share the same passion as the folks who work here. We have a passion for the historical and conservation aspects of preserving the mill. Where else can you go and see someplace that George Washington owned and lived on?" he said.
Generally speaking, working for the Parks department "is a people business," Lehman said, one that takes its lead from volunteers. "If you can combine what a regular citizen or volunteer can do for the parks with what the professionals can do, we try to follow their lead to do more," he said.
Following Thursday's reception, more meetings were planned for Friday and the weekend, he said.
"The real business at hand is taking a look at our long-range plans and trying to figure out how we're going to achieve and finance them," Lehman said.
Appointed as Director the National Recreation and Parks service in 2001 by President George W. Bush, Fran Mainella enjoyed the park despite threatening skies of charcoal gray.
THE NATIONAL RECREATION and Parks Association, a lead organization with the National Parks Service, she said, and the leadership presented by the Fairfax County Park Authority is of a quality she hopes the trustees will take to their home regions nationwide.
"It's an outstanding organization, which is why we chose to be here," Mainella said. "There's a wonderful level of leadership."
As the first woman appointed head of the National Parks Service, Mainella said her work with the Parks department is not overwhelming.
"It's a big role but I work in partnership with state and national parks. It's a seamless effort, really," she said.
"It's a great day for the Fairfax County Park Authority and Colvin Run Mill," said Bob Lundguard, a tour guide at the Mill.
Maintaining the park year-round is a daunting task, he said, but one that is consistently worth his time.
"Over 10,000 school children come to the Mill from across Fairfax County," he said. "That's the most important thing we do because, first and foremost, this is an education facility. "
There are programs and lessons that can be taught at the Mill that can be tied into the Standards of Learning tests statewide, he said.
As operators one of the few functioning mills in North America, the professionals at Colvin Run are sought-after for their skills and advice, said Mason Maddox, one of the millers.
"We do a lot of symposiums, we talk to some groups that are strictly made up of millers, but we also get groups that come through here from all over the world," Maddox said. "Some people will say it's a great experience, some who do this for a living will give us pointers on how to make it better, but everyone seems to enjoy it."
The mill still produces cornmeal, which is available at the Mill's General Store but also makes a tasty snack for the geese, ducks and other birds who are often seen walking near the mill, he said.
"We run the mill every Sunday afternoon from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m. Kids today find it amazing to realize that there's a three-step process from the wheat or corn growing in the field to their dinner table," Maddox said. "Then again, there are some kids who come here understanding the gears and pulleys, which is pretty incredible."
Mike Henry, a site manager at Colvin Run Mill, said it was a "great opportunity" to have so many national park leaders at the mill.
"The county spends more money on its parks than some entire states, and events like this put us in the forefront," he said. "Something like 15 percent of the county is park land. This is a chance for us to take some leadership and hopefully show it tonight."
He credits the volunteers at the park for their work and dedication to preserving the historic site.
"Without our volunteers we couldn't open our doors here at all," he said.
"This is the coolest place in the Park Authority's domain," said Ann Korzeniewski, another site manager.