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Honoring 'Father of the Occoquan'

State Senate citation recognizes John Ringle for preservation of Occoquan Watershed.

From the dining room of her home on the Occoquan River, Maxine Ringle accepted a citation honoring her late husband, John Ringle, and thanking him for his hand in preserving the watershed.

"Every time I drive around this area and look around at the big, 5-acre lots, the legend of John and Maxine goes on and on," said friend Bill Cole, gathered with Maxine Ringle, her children, members of the Occoquan Boat Club and Occoquan Watershed Committee to honor John Ringle's memory with a presentation from State Sen. Jay O'Brien (R-39).

John Ringle, who died in December, was remembered as a visionary and great friend to the environment, who created the system of putting 5-acre lots along the Occoquan Watershed to protect the environmentally sensitive ecosystem there from the full impact of development.

"This is a great story," O'Brien said to Maxine Ringle, of the work she and her husband carried out for decades while planning and developing five communities in the watershed, all on 5-acre lots. "We really appreciate what you did to influence development in Fairfax County, even for those who came after you, like Till Hazel and Earl Williams," he said.

O'Brien said he is especially familiar with the impact on the other side of the Occoquan, where developers have built "right up to the edge of the water," as he represents nine precincts in Prince William County.

"They have not embraced the philosophy of protecting the watershed," he said. "I wanted you to know, the quality of life here, the precedent you set, the gift of land over the years just because it was a good thing to do, has made all the difference," O'Brien said.

John Ringle was often called the "Father of the Occoquan," a title O'Brien believes is well-deserved and earned.

PRESENTING A CITATION of appreciation to Maxine Ringle in her husband's name, which he authored along with Del. Tim Hugo (R-40), State Sen. Jeanmarie Devolites Davis (R-34) and other legislators from Northern Virginia, O'Brien said it was "the least we could do for John's years and years of work."

The presentation, on Wednesday, July 26, came on the 24-year anniversary of the down zoning of the Clifton and Fairfax Station area, which enforced the 5-acre lot requirements, said Cole.

To further honor John Ringle's memory, Cole said he'd like to see a John Ringle Conservation Award given out on that day every year to honor the person who has contributed to the preservation of the watershed.

Meeting the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority's early goal of preserving and protecting the Occoquan "wouldn't have been possible" with the Ringle's work, said Paul McCray, director of park operations with NVRPA.

"As a landowner along the river, we are in favor of lot size restrictions," McCray said. "His role was important to that as well."

John Ringle, when planning his communities with larger lots to protect the watershed, "gave us the idea of looking at the difference between what was being done in Fairfax County and what was to come in Prince Williams County, and all his visions came true," said Rick Evans, founder of the Occoquan Boat Club and director at large for the Occoquan Watershed Coalition.

"You can see from the air, the cluster of townhomes right on the river, the 17-inch drain pipes that run into it," Evans said of the development across the river.

A group of Ringle's friends have planned to walk the path John Ringle built in one week in the 1970s, connecting boaters to the river near the town of Occoquan, said Al Akers, a past president of the Occoquan Watershed Coalition.

By honoring John Ringle's work, "it feels like we're still living his legacy," said Jim Bonhiver, president of the Occoquan Watershed Coalition. "I wanted to be here to express my appreciation for the work he did."

Surrounded by her children, Michelle and Chris Ringle, and her husband's peers, Maxine Ringle said her work was "in the background, supporting him."

Despite many of her husband's friend's claims that the two worked as a team to preserve the natural environment along the Occoquan, Maxine Ringle smiled and insisted that she was "just a good influence."