100 Years of Natural Beauty

100 Years of Natural Beauty

Great Falls Park celebrates its 100th birthday with historical exhibits and special park activities.

Last weekend, Sara Warrington, 8, went on her first mountain biking trip. She and her father started at Riverbend Park, and arrived at Great Falls Park with plenty of time to check out its centennial activities.

"We heard about it, and we're locals," said Sara's mother, Heidi Warrington. "So far we've checked out the prehistoric tools and the wooden carvings."

On Saturday, July 1, and Sunday, July 2, Great Falls Park celebrated its 100th birthday with special exhibits and park activities. Warm weather had the park packed with visitors, many of whom were pleasantly surprised by the park's centennial celebration.

Jack Robb, 6, enjoyed his very first visit to Great Falls Park.

"I like the waterfalls," said Robb.

Floodwaters from the recent storms made the falls particularly exciting for visitors.

Great Falls Park originally opened in 1906. At that time, it was a small amusement park that was only accessible by the Great Falls trolley line. In 1966 the National Park Service acquired the park from Fairfax County, and in 1972, Hurricane Agnes took out the park's carousel, ending its run as an amusement park. Today the park is 800 acres of preserved natural habitat.

There were several special displays for the park's centennial festivities. The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue department brought in a variety of safety and rescue vehicles, and representatives were on hand to answer questions and provide information. Local artists set up tents to display their work, and special demonstrations were given on the art of prehistoric tool-making and blacksmithing.

"I'm working on door hinges," said blacksmithing apprentice Mark Schuknecht. "A good blacksmith would take about one hour, but for us it takes about 2-3 hours."

Sara Warrington, said she was most impressed by Scott Silsby's prehistoric tool-making.

"I like the way he chips away at the old stones," said Warrington.

Representatives from Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) encouraged families to sign up for its "Passport to Adventure" program.

"It's a family program, and it's a way to get kids started hiking," said REI Outreach Specialist Mark Nelson.

Those who sign up receive a booklet that lists five local trails of varying difficulty. Once children complete a trail, they log it in their "passport." When all five trails have been hiked, participants may bring their passports in to local REI stores to receive a certificate of completion and a commemorative water bottle.

"I've signed up about 40 people so far," said Nelson.

REI representatives also handed out plastic cards detailing the premises of the "Leave No Trace" program. The seven principles instruct children on how to enjoy nature without damaging it.

The Great Falls Historians put together a special photographic exhibit for the Centennial celebration. Historic photographs of Old Dominion Railroad and Great Falls Park in the early 1900's were on display in the Great Falls Visitors Center, and will remain there for the remainder of the month.