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Happy 30th Birthday to Center

Walney Visitor Center celebrates three decades.

Chantilly brothers Keith (left), 8, and Chad Hayes, 6, make hand-cranked ice cream.

Chantilly brothers Keith (left), 8, and Chad Hayes, 6, make hand-cranked ice cream. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

— In a nod to yesteryear, children were churning butter and hand-cranking ice cream, Saturday morning, in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly. But it wasn’t because the electricity was out — these activities were part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Walney Visitor Center.

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Cheryl Repetti, assistant naturalist and historian at E.C. Lawrence Park, demonstrates butter churning for visitors. “In both 1850 and 1860, they made 500 pounds of butter here in the dairy,” she said. “They used the nearby spring as a natural refrigeration system to separate the cream from the milk. Then they made butter and ice cream from the cream.”

Before the Fairfax County Park Authority acquired the land comprising the park in 1971, it was known as Walney Farm. For more than 230 years, just three families farmed it, and the opening of the visitor center in 1982 made sure that their stories and the history of the land would be preserved.

Now, more than 300,000 visitors a year flock to the visitor center for its many educational programs and exhibits. Inside a converted, 1780 farmhouse are a children’s touch table, live-animal exhibits, historic exhibits, a classroom and a greenhouse — all inviting visitors to learn and explore.

On Saturday, May 5, Sully District Park Authority representative Hal Strickland welcomed some 50 people to the outdoor celebration. Noting some of the Park Authority’s accomplishments in both land preservation and recreation opportunities for the public, he thanked Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) for his longtime support.

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Austin Nuckols, 3 and a half, of Centreville’s Cabell’s Mills community, gently strokes one of the baby goats visiting from Frying Pan Farm Park.

“He’s been a true friend of the parks,” said Strickland. “We are indebted to him for his vision of the future in this community and his recent and past support of park bonds. The Board of Supervisors was kind enough to increase our [upcoming] park bond from $50 million to $75 million last week, and we could not have secured passage of that initiative without Michael’s support.”

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Christina Perea of The Preserve at Wynmar community in Chantilly looks on as her daughter Alina, 2, pets a bunny.

Taking the podium, Frey said, “This park offers the community so much — there are fields and programs, trails and quiet places to sit and reflect. Some visitors love to explore the history all around us; others want to spend time learning about the wildlife and the natural surroundings. I’m so pleased to be a part of today’s celebration, and I consider all of us to be richer for the experiences we enjoy here at Walney.”

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Nathanael Adamson, 4, whose dad works seasonally at the park, pets one of the goats tended to by volunteer Hannah Duffy.