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The new Lorton Community Center (via Fairfax County)

The doors of the $18 million Lorton Community Center are now open, ahead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony set for this coming weekend.

The 30,000-square-foot facility on Richmond Highway is combined with a renovated and expanded Lorton Library as well as the new 1.7-acre Lorton Park.

The community center features a gym, a fitness room, a kitchen, an art room, and a sensory room. The facility also includes space for the Lorton Senior Center and the Lorton Community Action Center, a nonprofit that provides emergency financial assistance to those in need.

The 10,000-square-foot library has been expanded by 6,000 square feet for a larger children’s area, increased seating, and more meeting and study rooms. The new Lorton Park is located behind the parking lot and has open field space, picnic tables, playground, fitness area, and a trail loop.

The new Lorton Community Center site plan (via Fairfax County)

The facility also has sustainability features like a rain garden, underground stormwater facility, and infrastructure for solar panels.

The full project — the park, community center, and library — cost $27.23 million, with the community center accounting for essentially two thirds of the cost, according to a county spokesperson.

The entire facility opened to the public yesterday (Monday) with a ribbon cutting and “community celebration” scheduled for Saturday (Oct. 15) afternoon, rain or shine.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and other local officials are expected to attend. There will be tours of the new center and light refreshments.

The facility was initially scheduled to open late last month but was pushed several weeks to allow for “final facility work to be completed,” Storck said.

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Colorful balls of yarn (via Margarida Afonso/Unsplash)

There’s no gift like one made by hand.

That sentiment inspired Fairfax County Public Library’s new “Knitting for Charity” initiative, a pilot project launching next week that encourages community members to craft winter hats for those who will need warm clothes as temperatures drop.

“We were thinking about some type of community-driven project, and [my programming assistant] felt that this was taking giving to the next level, because we are asking people to spend time creating something that other people will use,” FCPL Program and Educational Services Director Renee Edwards said.

Starting on Monday (Sept. 12), the City of Fairfax, Chantilly, Tysons-Pimmit, Patrick Henry and John Marshall libraries will have a limited supply of yarn available for pick-up. The bags will also contain a sewing label and instructions.

However, anyone with yarn can participate. The yarn must be new, washable, and made out of wool/wool-blend or 100% acrylic, according to the FCPL website, which says to specifically avoid angora or mohair yarn since people may be allergic.

Donations will be accepted at those five libraries until 6 p.m. on Nov. 18. All of the hats will go to the nonprofit Shelter House, which provides crisis intervention, permanent and emergency housing, and other services for families experiencing homelessness and victims of domestic violence.

Since it’s a new initiative, FCPL wanted to start small, but when administrators contacted each library branch to gauge its interest in serving as a collection site, “the response was tremendous,” Edwards says.

“We looked at all of the branches that responded positively, looked at where they were located geographically on the county map, and then we chose,” she told FFXnow. “If this initiative is successful, the hope is that next year, we would expand it.”

Edwards says the initiative’s name is intentionally broad so it can evolve going forward. Though the current focus is on hats, other clothing items like scarves and mittens will be accepted too, as long as everything is hand-knit.

Reflecting the modern expectation of libraries as providers of public resources beyond books, Knitting for Charity is a continuation of FCPL’s efforts to address a variety of community needs, whether through donation drives, classes that teach technology skills, or its promise of an escape from the summer heat.

“We always are looking for events and initiatives that continually demonstrate to our community that we are more than just books,” Edwards said. “Not that we don’t have book discussions and author events and story times — that’s our bread and butter — but we also take it a step further, and we do a lot of other different programs and initiatives for our community members.”

Photo via Margarida Afonso/Unsplash

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Statue of a girl reading outside Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

As schools and libraries across the U.S. grapple with a historic surge in book bans and challenges, the topic has inevitably become a concern for Fairfax County Public Library officials.

The FCPL Board of Trustees raised the possibility of revisiting the library’s collection development policies when it met on July 13, according to meeting materials.

However, after a discussion, the board decided there was no need to modify the existing policies, FCPL Board Chair Brian Engler told FFXnow.

“Our current policies support purchasing materials that provide a broad and deep collection that is reflective of our diverse community,” said Engler, who represents Braddock District on the board. “Our staff use these policies to inform their purchasing patterns and it is this board’s intention that the public library will continue to support all our residents through both our physical and digital collections.”

Aside from a protest late last year over a book display at Dolley Madison Library in McLean, FCPL has gone mostly unaffected by the mostly conservative push to restrict access to books, particularly ones that feature LGBTQ+ individuals and Black people.

Though Fairfax County Public Schools dealt with a high-profile challenge against two books last year, the county library system typically receives just one or two formal challenges to materials in its collections each year, and “2022 so far has not been an exception,” Director Jessica Hudson says.

Elsewhere, libraries have lost funding and workers over book ban campaigns that they felt amounted to harassment and intimidation. Some states have passed laws banning “sexually explicit” materials in schools or giving parents the ability to dictate what their kids are allowed to read.

In Virginia, public schools are now required to notify parents of sexually explicit instructional materials under new policies that the Pride Liberation Project, a local LGBTQ+ student advocacy group, worries will have a “chilling effect.”

FCPL’s collection development policy says materials should “be evaluated according to objective standards” with consideration given to artistic and scholarly merit as well as potential recreational and entertainment value.

The policy emphasizes a need for flexibility, open-mindedness, and responsiveness to changing social and cultural values and technological advances.

“Different viewpoints on controversial issues may be acquired, including those which may have unpopular or unorthodox positions,” the policy says. “The Library recognizes that those materials which offend, shock or bore one reader may be considered pleasing, meaningful or significant by another.”

The policy’s stance on access and free speech will be highlighted in the strategic plan that FCPL is in the process of revising, according to minutes from the July 13 board meeting.

Engler, who chairs the ad hoc committee developing the new strategic plan, says the library typically reviews its plan every five years, with the current one running through this December.

“I can’t specifically comment on the updated Strategic Plan yet, but suffice it to say that it will be proactive in addressing the latest issues, including the collection, selection, reconsideration guidance and the like,” Engler said.

The ad hoc committee is expected to present a draft at the board of trustees’ Nov. 9 meeting, with a final vote coming in December.

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Morning Notes

A popsicle melts at Capital One Center’s The Perch in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Dog Dies in Newington Townhouse Fire — Unattended cooking started a fire at a townhouse in the 6700 block of Red Bird Woods Court last Friday (July 15) that displaced one resident and caused approximately $93,750 in damages. County firefighters found a dog while searching the property that was given medical care but didn’t survive. [FCFRD]

Fairfax Nonprofit Helps Rescued Beagles — The Fairfax-based animal rescue group Homeward Trails is one of several shelters across the country helping the Humane Society find homes for beagles rescued from a Cumberland breeding facility. The nonprofit will place 1,500 of the dogs and has already received almost 1,000 adoption applications. [Washingtonian]

New Mental Health Crisis Hotline Available — “A new 9-8-8 crisis and support hotline is now active across the United States, including here in Fairfax County…Dialing either 9-8-8 or the existing [National Suicide Prevention Lifeline] number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), will connect you to behavioral health care and support 24 hours a day.” [Fairfax County Government]

GW Parkway Rehab Could Bring Traffic Cameras — “WTOP has learned that an upcoming major rehabilitation of the George Washington Parkway’s northern section will lay the groundwork — literally — for live traffic cameras along a 7-mile stretch of the roadway running from the Capital Beltway to Spout Run. Ground was broken for the project on Monday.” [WTOP]

McLean Baseball Player Drafted by New York Mets — “Add one more significant achievement, and likely the best of all, in a season full of big accomplishments and recognitions for Nick Morabito. The McLean resident and 2022 graduate of Gonzaga College High School recently was chosen in the second round (75th pick overall) of the Major League Baseball draft by the New York Mets.” [Sun Gazette]

Great Falls Bank to Expand — “Three-year-old Trustar Bank in Great Falls has raised $18 million in fresh capital and intends to use the proceeds to help fund its expansion across the D.C. region. The private placement…could be a prelude to an eventual initial public offering for the $560 million-asset Trustar.” [Washington Business Journal]

Annandale Park Field Named After Advocate — “In action at their regular meeting on July 13, 2022, the Fairfax County Park Authority Board voted to name rectangular field 6 at Pine Ridge Park in honor of Wanda Rixon at the request of the Fairfax Women’s Soccer Association (FWSA)…FWSA and Rixon played an instrumental role in the effort to retain Pine Ridge Park as permanent park land.” [FCPA]

DMV Stops by Tysons Library Tomorrow — “Looking to renew your license, get the real ID and more? The DMV is visiting the Tysons-Pimmit Library. Registration is required and an appointment can be made here. Please note the DMV takes a lunch break from 12:30pm-1:30pm.” [FCPL]

It’s Thursday — Humid and partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 89 and low of 78. Sunrise at 6:02 am and sunset at 8:31 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County Public Library will soon modify its hours due to staffing issues (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 1:50 p.m. on 7/20/2022) Fairfax County Public Library will trim back its hours, starting next month, due to challenges in hiring staff.

Starting on Aug. 14, the county library system’s eight regional branches will be open from 1-9 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, and from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays.

The 14 community branches will operate from 1-9 p.m. on Monday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday. Those branches don’t open on Sundays.

The Access Services branch at the Fairfax County Government Center will maintain its standard hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The adjustments will allow all branches to stay open seven days a week, since the new schedules require only one shift of workers, FCPL said in its announcement yesterday (Monday).

“The schedule modification is effective Aug. 14 because that gives staff time to adjust any staffing and programming schedules necessitated by the change,” FCPL spokesperson Erin Julius told FFXnow by email. “We also wanted to ensure we maintained higher service levels during summer hours when children are out of school.”

This is the second time so far this year that FCPL has adjusted operations in response to staffing issues. During the height of this past winter’s COVID-19 surge, the library system closed its branches for two days per week from January through March.

However, while that change had a clear end date of April 1, the latest adjustments will stay in effect indefinitely, according to the news release.

The staffing limitations have presented an obstacle to FCPL’s efforts to establish a new sense of normalcy in response to the pandemic. With its return to full in-person services in June 2021, the library system introduced newly expanded, more consistent hours — a longtime goal of advocates.

Fairfax County isn’t alone in struggling to attract and retain library workers. Libraries across the country have seen employees step away over the past two years, citing issues from burnout and inadequate compensation to public safety concerns and low morale partly related to an uptick in increasingly hostile book ban campaigns.

“Like many industries, public libraries are facing recruitment challenges that stem from some employees choosing to leave the workforce early, some reassessing their interest in direct public service work and competition in the DMV region,” Julius said.

According to Julius, staffing levels have varied on a daily basis, but FCPL has been averaging a vacancy rate of 18 to 20%.

The county’s budget for fiscal year 2023, which began July 1, funds 390 positions, including about 374 full-time staff.

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Closed sign (via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash)

While it won’t be quiet around Fairfax County on Monday with Fourth of July celebrations, many government offices and facilities will be closed.

Government offices, and some businesses, are closed for the Independence Day holiday. Public transportation schedules may be lighter and public services, like trash collection, may be changed. See our listing below to get details on what will be open and closed.

Government

Fairfax County government offices will be closed Monday (July 4) in recognition of the Fourth of July holiday, but some facilities are open and schedules vary.

The library system’s branches will be closed on Monday. Animal Control is closed, as it normally is, on Mondays.

The Circuit and District courts will be closed Monday.

The Town of Herndon offices will be closed Monday.

Park Authority

All Park Authority rec centers and golf centers and will be open Monday. Historic sites, nature centers and Green Spring Gardens will be closed. Frying Pan Farm Park Farm and indoor arena will be open while its visitor center will be closed. The River Bend Park Visitor Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

All Neighborhood and Community Service facilities will be closed Saturday (July 2) through Monday. Reston Community Center Hunter Woods will be open Monday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Lake Anne will be closed on Monday.

The McLean Community Center will be closed.

Herndon Community Center will be closed Monday. But Herndon Centennial Golf Course will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting.

Transportation

Fairfax Connector will operate on a Saturday service schedule on Monday. Human Services Transportation (FASTRAN) will not operate on Monday.

On Monday, Metrorail will open at 7 a.m. and close at midnight but last train times vary by station. The Orange Line trains will operate between Vienna and Stadium-Armory only, according to Metro, but free express and local shuttle buses will be provided.

Trash

The county advises residents to contact their trash and recycling collector directly for service schedule changes due to the holiday.

The I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be closed Monday.

Town of Herndon recycling will be collected Tuesday (July 5) since it is normally collected Monday.

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Reston Regional Library (file photo)

The Friends of Reston Regional Library (FRRL) is celebrating Fairfax County Public Library’s theme for 2022 — the year of literacy — with a record-setting gift.

The nonprofit organization, which has been supporting the Reston library since 1985, is providing a grant of $200,000 to the county library system to expand its printed and digital materials for the library collection.

According to Eileen Evon, a spokesperson for FRRL, this is the largest single gift the organization has ever given to FCPL.

“The gift will give a much needed boost to the library’s ability to add more copies of popular titles already in the catalog, while also expanding the depth and breadth of many subject areas, including fiction for all ages, as well as non-fiction books, bi-lingual books, and books in other languages for young readers,” FRRL said in a news release.

FRRL issued the following statement regarding the gift:

The truth is, between the hard wear and tear on highly circulated print materials, the increased demand for digital materials, and the increase in total checkouts and library card holders, the County budget to the Library for collections just hasn’t caught up to the need. We know they are reviewing this and hope that it will change in the future as the library system continues to grow and change.

In the meantime, we thought the Year of Literacy was the perfect time for us to call public attention to this pressing need, and pitch in ourselves with the monies generated — one book at a time — by our hardworking volunteers who sort and sell books and media from over 40 tons of donated materials each year. After talking with Director Hudson and the head of Technical Operations, Dianne Coan, we know the Collections Development team will work hard to make the most out of every dollar to strengthen and expand the collection to best serve all of its patrons.

The gift will be formally handed over in a ceremony on June 8 at an FCPL Board of Trustees meeting. FCPL director Jessica Hudson, the board, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Water Alcorn, and other local officials plan to attend.

The Friends are also providing one-time grants to local organizations in an effort to support and promote literacy in the community. Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000 and will be awarded to a group that provide hands-on programming that directly impacts literacy in Reston, Herndon, and the county overall.

The news comes as FRRL positions itself to support the creation of a new library for Reston — which has been contemplated for several years. While county voters approved a bond in 2012 to fund the project, FRRL president Brian Jacoby noted that more funds may be needed.

“Every branch has its own unique requirements to best support its staff, volunteers, and patrons,” Jacoby wrote in statement. “New furniture, materials and equipment, or facilities space specific to the needs of our local community may not be covered by either the developer’s plans or the County’s funding. Our volunteers and our patrons are long-time active users of the Reston branch and they have a strong love for the library and what it provides to our community.”

The Friends’ board recently affirmed its commitment to set aside savings for needs related to the future building.

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Morning Notes

Construction cranes with Ukraine flag at Reston Station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax Resident Faces Prison for Unruly Airplane Behavior — “Last week, Kameron C. Stone, 30, of Fairfax, Virginia, was sentenced to one year in federal prison for interfering with flight crew and assault by striking and wounding in special aircraft jurisdiction after pleading guilty on February 8, 2022.” [Department of Justice]

Vienna Crash Leads to Power Outage and Evacuations — “According to a Town of Vienna alert, a traffic crash resulted in live, downed wires in the area of Cottage and Elm Streets. Homes on Elm Street from Cottage to Plum Streets and Cottage Street from Cherry to Battle Streets were evacuated due to the potential for fire, according to the town.” [Patch]

West Falls Project to Break Ground — “Developers are expected to break ground this month on the first of three mixed-use projects near the West Falls Church Metro station with a total investment of about $1.2 billion…Falls Church’s George Mason High School was demolished and replaced by the nearby Meridian High School to make way for the first development, which is scheduled to break ground in mid-May.” [Virginia Business]

Fairfax County Among Healthiest in Virginia — “According to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute 2022 County Health Rankings report, Fairfax County is ranked the fourth healthiest county out of 133 in the commonwealth. Falls Church City ranks as the healthiest locality, while Fairfax City ranks as 13th in healthiest outcomes.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Unemployment Numbers Decline — “Fairfax County’s jobless rate ticked down slightly from February to March, among ongoing if incremental improvement from pandemic highs of 2020…the unemployment rate of 2.3 percent was down from 2.5 percent in February and well below the rate of 4.1 percent recorded a year ago.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Reston Farmers Market Reaches 25 Years — “One of the people on hand for the opening of the 2022 season was Del. Ken Plum (D-42nd), who has represented Reston in the Virginia House of Delegates for 42 years. Plum and Reston founder Robert E. Simon were on hand 25 years ago for the opening of the first farmers market at Lake Anne Village.” [Patch]

Fairfax County Libraries Celebrate Star Wars Day — Tomorrow (Wednesday) is May 4, and Fairfax County Public Library will let kids and kids at heart indulge their love for the still-ubiquitous space opera with a variety of activities, from origami Yoda at Tysons-Pimmit to an R2D2 photo op in Sherwood. Most events are open to all, though two that require registration have filled up. [FCPL]

It’s Tuesday — Rain overnight. High of 74 and low of 56. Sunrise at 6:10 am and sunset at 8:04 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Sunrise at Reston National Golf Course (photo by Terry Baranski)

Masks Now Optional on Metro — “Effective immediately, Metro will make masks optional on Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess for its customers. Masks also will be optional for Metro employees. This change comes as a result of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suspending enforcement, while the Biden Administration reviews a federal judge’s ruling.” [WMATA]

McLean Community Center Faces Anti-Equity Backlash — Protests of a “Drag Storybook Hour” at Dolley Madison Library last summer by some McLean residents have grown into broader opposition to MCC promoting diversity and inclusion in its programming. The tension has manifested in this year’s governing board race, where nine candidates, including a former Trump administration official, are vying for three open seats. [The Washington Post]

Capital Beltway Overnight Closures Planned in Tysons — “The I-495 (Capital Beltway) general purpose lanes and 495 Express Lanes will have nightly lane closures Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23 to allow crews to set the new pedestrian bridge truss in place as part of the Tysons/Old Meadow Road Bike/Ped Improvements project.” [VDOT]

Recess for Middle Schools Approved — “Middle school students in Fairfax County, Virginia, will get a short daily recess period beginning next year. The school board voted Thursday night to update its student and staff health and wellness policy to allow for a 15-minute recess period every day.” [WTOP]

Alcorn Plans to Seek Reelection — “Barely halfway through his term as Hunter Mill District Supervisor, Walter Alcorn has announced plans to seek re-election in November 2023 to a second 4-year term…His main reason is that he wants to see initiatives that he has worked on actually implemented.” [The Connection]

Research Reveals County Libraries Were Segregated — “Yes, FCPL was segregated. Yes, separate services were provided for White residents and for Black residents. The surface answer we had provided for years gave way to the truth, that our path to desegregation was mirrored across the region for our residents.” [The UncommonWealth]

Sediment Removal Project Underway in Reston — “Fairfax County Stormwater Management will be performing a sediment removal project at dry pond 0330DP located at 11950 Walnut Branch Rd. The project will start the week of April 18 and is expected to last a few weeks.” [Reston Association/Twitter]

Volunteers Needed to Pack Ukraine Donations — All the coats and other winter clothes collected for Northern Virginia’s donation drive for Ukrainian refugees will be delivered to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Oakton. Volunteers are needed on Friday and Saturday (April 22-23) to help pack the items for shipping to Poland. [Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

New Playground Opens at Lorton’s Laurel Hill Park — “The playground is appropriate for children ages 2 to 12 years old. Features include a large spinning Americans with Disabilities Act accessible play structure, small tot play composite and a large unique play structure for children 5 to 12 years old.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]

It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 47 and low of 37. Sunrise at 6:27 am and sunset at 7:51 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Looking south to Falls Church over Washington Blvd. (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Health Department Updates Covid Data — The county’s dashboard for COVID-19 data will report the 7-day average number of daily cases instead of the number of new cases, and two other metrics were added to the dashboard. The additions are the 7-day average number of daily new deaths, and the current community level, including the metrics that determine the level (hospitalizations, hospital capacity and cases within a community). [Fairfax County Government]

FBI Relaunches New HQ Search — “President Joe Biden’s administration made it clear that the federal government would be consolidating the FBI’s headquarters outside of D.C. in the General Services Administration’s fiscal year 2023 budget request…The move has been in limbo for years. During then-President Barack Obama’s administration, the GSA had narrowed down potential locations to Greenbelt, Landover and Springfield.” [Bisnow]

Three Fort Belvoir Firefighters Have Babies in 24 Hours — “They were all expecting their sons to be born soon, and they joked at the fire station that they would run into each other at the hospital. None of them thought it would actually happen.” [Washington Post]

Food for Fines Adapts to Read and Feed — “As of Jan. 1, FCPL no longer charges overdue fines on most materials. To continue its partnership with Food for Others, FCPL is now hosting ‘Read and Feed’ in April. Those who wish to give may simply drop off donations at any FCPL branch during its regular hours throughout the month of April.” [Fairfax County Government]

Vienna School Renovation Progresses — “Fairfax County Public Schools’ plan to renovate and expand Louise Archer Elementary School got some necessary boxes ticked March 21 when the Vienna Town Council unanimously approved a series of site modifications.” [Sun Gazette]

McLean Little League Opens Season — “McLean Little League players are busy scurrying around the baseball and softball diamonds these days, following the opening of the 2022 season. Enjoy these photos from the annual opening-day ceremonies, held March 26, as captured by Dave Facinoli.” [Sun Gazette]

Bluebells Festival Returns in Great Falls — “After a two-year hiatus, Bluebells at the Bend Festival is BACK! The day’s highlight features the emergence of the iconic Virginia Bluebells, native wildflowers that bloom in the moist woodlands of eastern North America and can create a bit of their spring magic in your own garden.” [Visit Fairfax]

Enjoy Cherry Blossoms at the PARC at Tysons — “#Spring is in #fullbloom at the PARC! Stop by next week, April 4-9 from 9 AM – 5 PM, to check out our @cherryblossfest decorations and enjoy #free fun-filled spring #activities and #treats from @tysons.creamery. You won’t want to miss this spring celebration! #spring2022” [Twitter]

Herndon Middle Schooler Earns Honors — “Jada Elfar, a seventh-grade student in Shawn Ratliff’s civics class at the King Abdullah Academy in Herndon, recently was named the winner in several levels of the American Legion Department of Virginia Middle School Essay Contest.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Thursday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 64 and low of 55. Sunrise at 6:56 a.m. and sunset at 7:32 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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