Nature lovers, trail users and climbing enthusiasts will have new options within the next year as the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks) is planning a series of upgrades at several local facilities.
• NOVA Parks is preparing to build a greenhouse, or orangery, at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens north of Vienna. The project will be financed with an $850,000 donation from the Volgenau Foundation in Tysons.
Some members of the Volgenau family live near the site and enjoy visiting the gardens, said Paul Gilbert, executive director of NOVA Parks.
The greenhouse will be located on what now is a section of lawn just outside the site’s visitor center. The building will be “beautiful and decorative,” feature potted Mediterranean plants and be designed as flexible space for various uses, Gilbert said.
“As soon as we have a few permits, we are ready to start and hope to be complete before the light show starts in mid-November,” he said.
• NOVA Parks this fall and winter will construct a climbing tower with a ropes course at Upton Hill Regional Park in Arlington, slated to open in early 2020. Gilbert did not have a definitive price tag for the new features, saying the agency still was bidding out elements of the project.
Located next to the site’s batting cage, the multi-level tower will offer users a variety of climbing options, depending on their skill and comfort level. Users will wear harnesses that will be snapped into safety cables before they start climbing, Gilbert said.
“It’s going to be a pretty spectacular feature,” he said. “We’re very excited about that.”
• NOVA Parks also next year will construct in Falls Church its first “dual trails” section of the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail, which will offer separated areas for pedestrians and bicyclists. The project is about 30-percent engineered so far, and agency officials recently updated Falls Church Planning Commission about initiative, Gilbert said.
The $3.7 million project, which will add parallel sections throughout the trail’s length in Falls Church, largely is being financed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The initiative qualifies for funding from that agency because the W&OD has become an important commuting option for bicyclists, he said.
“The trail has become transportation infrastructure that’s really important to the region,” Gilbert said. “For decades, the W&OD was viewed as a recreational resource, which it is. But it also has a rush-hour midweek.”
NOVA Parks eventually hopes to add separated sections in all parts of the 45-mile-long trail that are located in urban areas, he said.
The dual trails will fit well with a new W&OD Trail bridge at Route 29, Gilbert said. The Virginia Department of Transportation is financing the project and has begun construction, which could take about a year to complete, he said.