It is a new year on the calendar but just mid-year for the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) as our fiscal year begins July 1, and ends June 30. Already, just halfway through our year of volunteering, this board has done a lot. Because of what we, as a team, have accomplished, GFCA have been fortunate in getting very good coverage in the local press.
This year the GFCA has a much diversified board. There are nine returning board members — Jack Bowles, Estelle Holley, Stella Koch, Doug Natal, Dave Olin, Eugene Thomas, Lisa Tofil, Dianne Van Volkenburg and myself. There are also seven refreshingly new board members, who have jumped into our new activities with commitment and intensity — Sue Bennett, Michael Keeler, Eric Knudsen, John Lesinski, Kathleen Murphy, Dave Petersen, Glenn Pricket.
John Ulfelder, chairman of the Land Use and Zoning committee, continues to be the mainstay for the Great Falls Citizens Association. John, a past president, is not on the board this year but continues to come to all board meetings as well as managing the monthly Land Use committee meetings. From my perspective, he is our most valuable contributor. This year has been particularly intense with special permits to review and other new or continuing topics to address. Some are listed below.
Kathleen Murphy, our new secretary, has kept and posted minutes for the board meetings plus produced a comprehensive, monthly Great Falls Citizens Association newsletter. Her dedication and time devoted to these tasks, as well as her co-chairing of the 2020 Vision Project received recognition and reward at the December Great Falls Citizens Association board meeting. Assisting Kathleen on the 2020 Vision Project is co-chair Michael Keeler.
Jack Bowles, our new treasurer, has delivered on-time quarterly reports. In addition, he has arranged investments of the reserve funds to maximize the returns and still keep them available.
John Lesinski, chairman of the Membership committee, has devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy to beefing up the membership application process. We now have our largest membership in recent years. This is critical to our influence with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. John directed an effective membership drive at the polls, and leveraged our other events to promote membership. He is co-chairing the important Crime Watch Task Group committee, and has dedicated time to a weekly team meeting.
Our most avid volunteer this year is probably Sue Bennett, who has worked at every key Great Falls Citizens Association event, spoken at the 2020 Vision meetings and focus groups, designed the logo for the Heritage Tree Project, and is always on hand for set up and to work as a greeter at the general sessions. Sue has also helped me put together folders for each general session and to send out mailers. Also, there isn’t a nicer person in the Great Falls Citizens Association — there can't be!
Eric Knudsen is another incredibly active volunteer. Eric worked on the Banner contest, the Land Use and Zoning committee, plus several of the events listed below. Eric has also helped to keep meetings on track by acting as timekeeper.
Members who are not on the board this year but remain key contributors are Eleanor Weck (president of the Trails committee), Robin Rentsch (chair of the Habitat Project), Elaine Tholen (assisting Robin with the Habitat Project), and Eleanor Anderson. Additionally, Beth Putnam and Sharon Rainey have worked hard with the Crime Watch Task Group.
The first six months of our GFCA year has been very active.
HERE ARE some key highlights of activities, projects and/or accomplishments:
* Great Falls July 4th celebration — GFCA had a booth with two games and a separate Wildlife Habitat Display booth, and a membership table.
* Taste of Great Falls Booth — Banner contest for youth.
* Membership Drive including mailings to 22066 plus about a dozen volunteers passed out GFCA info at the November polls.
* “Candidate Night” which included dialogue with all the candidates running for the House of Representatives as well as the Independent candidate for Senate.
* Hosted Gerry Connelly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and heard his six points of accomplishment for the current board under his leadership.
* Certification of Great Falls as a Wildlife Habitat Community by the National Wildlife Federation. We also have over 110 backyards certified. Great Falls is now only 34 backyards and a display book away from qualifying for the community certification. This project has been educational, fun and valuable for increasing the awareness and sensitivity in our community to support our wildlife co-inhabitants. This project has been successfully lead by Robin Rentsch. We now have our four schools and churches joining in with the Library and Riverbend Park to complete our organization and schools requirements.
* Heritage Tree Project to inventory the grand old trees of Great Falls results to be announced in the Spring.
* Banner for Great Falls — design and delivery in process. (To be unveiled in the spring at Great Falls Day).
* Great Falls Crime Watch Task Team, headed by John Lesinski with Beth Putnam, Sharon Rainey, and Sue Bennett. Done in response to recent increase in burglaries and thefts in the community.
Committee activities and actions:
Land Use and Zoning:
* Commerce Bank and the great oaks — Special Permit review; sponsored meetings and reviews
* Verizon Tree Pole
* Seneca Road shopping center and traffic plans
* Mediterranee Restaurant
* River Bend CC Special Exception
* Amendments re Shape Factor Limitations for Lots
* Catholic Archdiocese of the One Spirit — active meeting hearing from church and local neighbors
LONG RANGE Planning and Development — The 2020 Project, started in 2005, moved forward with new commitment and leadership. In September, October and November, a Values Survey, numerous focus groups, and library collection notebook posted to seek community input. This has been the focus of three of the first four general membership sessions and received much notice by the press.
Transportation — Truck Restrictions on Georgetown Pike — Lisa Tofil testified at public hearing with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
* New ways to enroll in GFCA, including Paypal on the GFCA web site
* New application form
* New membership database administrator
* New membership application being researched
Environment, Parks and Trails — thanks to Stella Koch — projects include:
* Heritage Tree Census
* Community Wildlife Habitat Certification — actively pursuing strategies for preserving continuous corridors for wildlife.
* Trails — testified/advocated for support to build elevated trail bridge over difficult run; testified in the trail closure on the Watson property in Southdown.
Communications and Outreach:
* Plenty of press this year with articles appearing regularly on GFCA activities and issues facing the community.
* Newly updated and informative Web site. Finally the current minutes and links to projects are being incorporated.
Looking forward to the second half — here is what we hope to complete/ accomplish the following:
*Dranesville District Supervisor Joan Dubois will speak at the GFCA February session. The topic will be Waste Water Management — new septic technologies and their potential for Great Falls.
*Announcement of completion and results for 2020 project, Heritage Tree, and NWF Certification of Great Falls as a “Habitat Community” at Great Falls Day or another community venue.
*A Banner for GFCA, completed and displayed at Great Falls or some similar venue.
*The nominating committee will be named in March. The goal will be to recruit enough candidates for a real election in June, which includes more candidates than positions on the board (so look for opportunities to nominate or be nominated in March-May).
Thanks to each of you who volunteered and assisted in all these projects and activities in the first half. You have been a real service to our community. Let’s keep the momentum moving through June … thank you!