Fairfax County Park Authority debuts new ‘Wonder Wagon,’ taking nature on the road

Fairfax County is now bringing nature to residents’ doorsteps.

Last week, the Fairfax County Park Authority launched a new, fully electric mobile nature center called the Wonder Wagon. The tricked-out nature-themed van, operated by park staff, is intended to bring outdoor wonders to underserved communities and Title 1 schools.

According to spokesperson Ben Boxer, the park authority hopes the van will bring people closer to nature by using hands-on activities to deepen local residents’ connection with the environment, especially for those without immediate access to parks.

“Our Wonder Wagon staff are experienced programmers who specialize in providing engaging, thought-provoking experiences for people of all ages,” Boxer told FFXnow. “With the tools and exhibits contained in the Wonder Wagon, they will be leading a variety of activities from catching bugs and observing birds to identifying and learning about local flora and fauna.”

In 2022, the Board of Supervisors approved $114,640 for the FCPA to hire staff and purchase supplies, but that was only half of what was needed to get the program off the ground.

Over the last year, the Fairfax County Park Foundation, the nonprofit that supports the park authority, raised the remaining funds, securing an additional $177,742 from donors for staff, the van and operational expenses. Contributions included an environmental fund grant from the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia and the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Gateways Grant.

The Wonder Wagon officially launched on April 20 during Earth Day Fairfax, an Earth Day festival held at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly.

The van won’t be available for events at private schools or residences, such as birthday parties. Instead, it’ll be making appearances at public events and school activities, according to Boxer.

All requests may be submitted online. The park authority’s website also has a calendar of upcoming Wonder Wagon appearances.