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Getting To Know ...

Carolyn Williams, a longtime resident of Fairfax, was recently honored by the Fairfax County Park Authority for her 10 years of service at Hidden Oaks Nature Center. She is this week's People Profile.

Years in the community:

I've lived in the City of Fairfax for 26 years. I originally moved to the Town of Fairfax in 1952 but was away for a number of years in college and graduate school, and working in Maryland.

Education:

I attended Fairfax High School, the College of William and Mary, and graduate school at the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania. After that, I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institutes of Health for two years.

Current job:

I am somewhat retired and have a part-time job with the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, the local chapter of the National Audubon Society. For the past 12 years, I have been the director of the Northern Virginia Bird Survey, an annual count of area breeding birds. Our data is being used to monitor bird populations and distributions, information that helps protect birds and their habitats. I am passionate about educating the public as to the importance of habitat preservation for birds and other wildlife. This is a tremendous challenge in light of the amount of development taking place throughout the area.

Achievements:

* I conducted and published some good solid biomedical research while working at NIH and elsewhere.

* I've led a decade's worth of weekly bird walks at Eakin Community Park for Hidden Oaks Nature Center.

* For a number of years, I've helped with natural resource surveys at the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (before and after it became a refuge), the Lorton Prison Facility (now called Laurel Hill), Meadowood, and Occoquan Regional Park. This information has helped preserve important wildlife habitats and places where the public can connect with and enjoy nature.

* I've put together ecology and birding classes for the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute (OLLI) at George Mason University.

Activities/interests/hobbies:

Birding, studying butterflies and dragonflies, geology, botany, etc. If it's natural history, I enjoy learning about it. I also love classical music, especially opera, and jazz. OLLI has given me the opportunity to pursue my areas of interest as well as to explore new fields including foreign affairs, literature and engineering. I'm a licensed amateur radio operator and hope to have some time in the near future to devote to this hobby.

Favorite local restaurant in the community?

I love the fact that there is a diversity of ethnic restaurants in the area. I especially like Panjshir, Yen Cheng, Connaught Place, Silverado, Simit, Pars, Temel, and Red, Hot and Blue.

Favorite place in the community?

That would be my yard. It's a small lot with mature oaks and maples and some beech understory trees that attracts a variety of migrating birds during the spring and to a lesser extent in the fall. It's very exciting because you never what's going to show up. During spring migration this year, I logged in a "life" bird, a gray-cheeked thrush, a sweet little bird with a lovely song. It's also fun when "old friends" return. I get a real thrill when I hear the first "wheeeep" of the year signaling that the great crested flycatchers have returned to nest in the backyard tree cavities.

I'm also very fond of Daniels Run Park, Fairfax City's only natural park.

Community concerns:

I am extremely concerned about the rapid growth and development here with the concomitant loss of natural areas and the resulting air pollution and water quality issues, not to mention gridlock. All this is certainly not helping our quality of life. I'm also concerned about noise pollution. For me, since the proliferation of lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws, and the like, some of the enjoyment of being outdoors has been lost.

Perhaps it's still possible to limit growth, but I really think it's too late. However, it's not too late for homeowners to adopt some rather simple actions that can vastly improve the environmental health of our yards and ultimately our communities. This is the concept behind the National Audubon Society's Audubon At Home program. Here's what you can do — reduce pesticide use, conserve water, protect water quality, remove exotic plant pests, and plant native species.

What brought you here?

Actually my parents brought me to Fairfax. They purchased a house in the Town of Fairfax in the early 1950s, so we left our rental apartment in Arlington and moved to the country — and it really was country back in those days. I didn't want to leave my friends, but I was only 13 and my parents insisted that I come with them. Looking back on it now, Fairfax was a great place to grow up. I had a good life that included a paper route (remember the Washington Star?), lots of babysitting jobs, and no rent! Plus I could safely ride my bike all over town. Now that tells you how many years ago it was!

Community hidden treasure:

Let me chose several. Daniels Run Park for starters. Yesterday's Rose — a thrift shop on Route 236 in Fairfax where one can purchase donated items at bargain prices and the proceeds go to local charities. Simit — excellent kabobs, chicken salad sandwiches, pastries, and my favorite, red lentil soup. And finally, there's a truly hidden place I discovered at Fairfax's Fall Festival this year, Jim's Back Alley Kitchen, a little sandwich shop on University Drive. Check it out.

Personal goals?

I'd like to help bring about world peace, but that would be so unrealistic. In lieu of that, I would like to instill in people a love for, or at least an appreciation of, nature and encourage them to become stewards of the natural world. I'd also like to help folks discover and enjoy what's around them. Many people I know travel a lot but do not take advantage of the many museums, parks, historical areas, and other places in the area.

Other goals — convince land use policy makers to preserve more natural areas (I'm afraid this goal is as difficult to accomplish as world peace!), learn to send and receive Morse Code at more than five words per minute, and finish cleaning out the basement.

Do you know someone who should be featured in the Connection's People Profile? Send your nominations to Jon Whiten at jwhiten@connectionnewspapers.com or call 703-917-6422.