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Entering Blake Lane Park (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Fairfax County Park Authority has some new financial muscle behind its efforts to clear invasive plants from Blake Lane Park in Oakton.

A $20,000 grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation will enable the agency to clear an additional 1.2 acres of land and replant it with native shrubs and trees, the FCPA announced last week.

The invasive plant removal efforts will specifically target Ailanthus altissima, also known as tree-of-heaven, a tree native to China and southeast Asia that got introduced to the U.S. in the 1700s.

In addition to being prolific and difficult to remove once it takes root, tree-of-heaven is a host for spotted lanternflies, according to the park authority. The winged pests secrete a honeydew substance that can attract other insects like wasps and ants and spur mold growth, ruining forests and crops.

Since a spotted lanternfly made its way to Fairfax County via a grocery store shipment in Annandale in 2021, the park authority has urged community members to kill the insects immediately.

According to the Jan. 4 news release, Blake Lane Park was chosen for the grant to the Fairfax County Park Foundation “due to the high density of Ailanthus altissima, and strong community volunteer support” for the FCPA’s Invasive Management Area program (IMA).

“Conservation and restoration of our parks and woodlands requires a communitywide effort and our Invasive Management Area program is a shining example of a community-forward approach to achieving those aims,” FCPA Resource Management Director Laura Grape said. “We are very grateful to Dominion Energy and to our community volunteers for their tremendous dedication to environmental stewardship and helping us make a lasting difference at Blake Lane Park.”

The grant went to the Fairfax County Park Foundation, which raises private funds and obtains grants for the park authority to supplement its public funding. The FCPA will match the grant to “provide long-term maintenance and community engagement” at Blake Lane Park, according to the release.

Located at 10033 Blake Lane, the 10-acre park features a forested trail, a dog park, two soccer fields and an open play area. It was targeted for development as a new elementary school, but resident opposition — and the realization that the Dunn Loring Center could be converted instead — nixed that plan.

The park is one of 65 sites in the IMA program, which recruits volunteers to help remove invasive plants and restore habitats. Program Manager Patricia Greenberg previously told FFXnow that 70 to 75% of the county’s parkland is covered by invasive species.

The park authority says the grant for Blake Lane Park will cover enough seedling purchases to plant 100 stems per acre.

“We know how important it is to care for our air, water, and land — including the wonderful parks in our communities,” Dominion Energy spokesperson Peggy Fox said. “We’re proud to support the Fairfax County Park Foundation with an education and stewardship grant to enhance our local parks.”

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A local recording studio owner is putting money where his music is to help the industry thrive in the area.

Dave Mallen opened Annandale’s Innovation Station Music about six years ago in his house near Little River Turnpike. Now, he’s launching an annual grant to help locals record and promote their new music.

He says there are plenty of great musicians here in the D.C. area, but many need more resources to thrive.

“We have a ton of talent right that is homegrown,” Mallen told FFXnow. “[Innovation Station] is an incubator for local talent. I’m trying to get people to reach further and push the envelope with their music.”

The “Pay It Forward Grant” is for $2,000 and will be awarded annually to one applicant who demonstrates a vision and a need for assistance. The money can be used to record at Innovation Station. The deadline to send an application and work samples is Jan. 31.

“I’m trying through my…business to do the things that I think the local government, local arts councils, and other institutions should be doing, which is directing a whole more money to the local independent music scene,” Mallen said.

There are grants available through several local public-private organizations, but those are often aimed at venues, theaters, and established institutions with “name recognition,” said Mallen.

He also hopes that by supporting local artists, independent music venues will also come back.

“There’s quite a lot of talent and folks are not necessarily…well known because there aren’t a ton of outlets for people to play anymore,” he said.

He cites Vienna’s Jammin Java as the only venue now catering to the scene, particularly after Epicure Cafe suddenly closed earlier this year. With the advent of streaming music and consumers not really paying for music anymore, the need for venues where artists get paid to perform live is even more essential, he said.

This isn’t the first time he’s awarded grants to local musicians. Previously, after a break-in at his studio, Mallen provided grants to two Maryland-based musicians who now both have albums coming out in early 2023.

He also co-founded the DMV Music Alliance, a nonprofit aimed at bringing together musicians from across the region to better develop and promote the local music scene. Read More

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Steve Descano named United Community’s Progreso Center as a recipient of a Community Partnership Grant (courtesy Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney)

A trio of local nonprofits that assist people who have experienced abuse and domestic violence got a little funding boost last week, courtesy of Fairfax County prosecutors.

On Thursday (Dec. 15), the Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney named the Women for Afghan Women (WAW) and United Community’s Progreso Literacy and Citizenship Center as the inaugural recipients of its new Community Partnership Grants, which are intended for organizations that serve victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and crimes against children.

Funds were also awarded to SafeSpot, which provides advocacy and support services to child victims of sexual and physical abuse and their families.

“My office is proud to partner with these three organizations that provide resources for victims,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said in a news release. “I am personally grateful for the work they do in our community — supporting victims throughout the legal process and helping them on the path to healing and recovery is critical work and will help make our community stronger and safer.”

The $8,000 grants are funded by proceeds from asset forfeiture, where law enforcement can seize and retain or sell property involved in a crime. Descano’s office didn’t share how much it gets from forfeitures but said it can grant up to $25,000 per year.

In Virginia, forfeited assets and the proceeds from any sales are put into a Department of Criminal Justice Services fund and then distributed back to the agencies that participated in the investigation that led to the seizures.

The money must be used “to promote law enforcement,” which could include victim services and other efforts to build relationships and encourage cooperation with the community, per state law.

The application for the Community Partnership Grants program asked organizations how they would use the grant to “support law enforcement, or improve the relationship between law enforcement and the Fairfax community.”

According to its website, SafeSpot is partnered with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the Fairfax County Police Department, among others, as part of its work to help victims and their families navigate criminal investigations and court proceedings.

Though headquartered in New York, WAW established an office in the Springfield area earlier this year that provides basic needs support, immigration-related legal services, counseling and educational classes to Virginia’s Afghan community, which is the second-largest in the country.

“The need for direct and comprehensive services has only increased since last summer,” WAW Program Manager Mariam Kakar said. “As the only Afghan-led organization that supports survivors of domestic violence, we look forward to using these funds to help many individuals and families in our local community.”

Founded in 1969 by faith groups and volunteers, United Community offers supportive services, such as food assistance, crisis intervention and more, with the goal of ending poverty, specifically along the Route 1 corridor.

Located in the Gerry Hyland Government Center in Mount Vernon, the Progreso center provides education, citizenship classes and legal services to immigrants, including survivors of domestic violence.

“As the leading human services non-profit agency in southeastern Fairfax County, United Community seeks out opportunities to collaborate with our allies throughout the community,” said Alison DeCourcey, the nonprofit’s president and CEO. “We’re grateful to Commonwealth’s Attorney Descano and his office for this grant, which will dramatically help us improve our reach and services to immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence.”

Descano, who is planning to seek reelection next year, hopes to make the community partnership grants an annual program, according to his office.

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Reston Regional Library (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

After the pandemic unearthed new needs, Friends of Reston Regional Library is offering $200,000 in grants to support literacy efforts in the community.

The organization, which supports and promote Reston Regional Library and the overall Fairfax County Public Library system, is accepting applications for grants ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 to nonprofits that offer hands-on programming that impacts literacy in Reston, Herndon and the county overall.

“The Friends of the Reston Regional Library was founded with the intent of supporting our local library branch, our library system, and our community,” organizers wrote in a statement. “In light of the recent increase in challenges faced by many populations, including the difficulty in accessing information and educational resources, we seek to strengthen and improve our involvement in the community at large.”

Applications for grants are due by Jan. 11.

The grant program comes after the Friends raised $200,000 this spring for FCPL.

The organization has also set aside funds for a new library planned for Reston in anticipation of challenges associated with the property. It’s likely the new facility may not provide enough space for book sale and donation processing — the primary method for the organization to raise funds.

That application is currently working its way through the county’s approval process.

More information about the grant application process is available online.

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Morning Notes

Boats docked at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Kitten Rescued in Groveton — Fairfax County firefighters from the Woodlawn station were dispatched to the 7000 block of Richmond Highway on Monday (June 27) after bystanders reported a stray kitten that got stuck in the engine compartment of their coworker’s SUV. First responders were able to “extriCATe the kitten without injury or damage to vehicle,” and a coworker of the original caller agreed to adopt the kitten. [FCFRD/Facebook]

(Correction: This article initially said the kitten was adopted by a firefighter, based on the department’s tweet about the incident.)

Vienna Proposes Tighter Regulation of Massage Parlors — “Council member Ray Brill Jr. requested that Town Attorney Steven Briglia provide possible town-code amendments to address the proliferation of massage establishments in Vienna and its surroundings, as well as possible illegal activity at unlicensed businesses.” [Sun Gazette]

Hidden Oaks Nature Center Reopens — “The newly expanded and renovated Hidden Oaks Nature Center reopened to the public on June  25. The nature center, at 7701 Royce St. in Annandale, had been closed for the past two years, first because of the Covid pandemic, then due to construction.” [Annandale Today]

Two Sent to Hospital by I-495 Crash — “Monday, 11:21 AM, units responded to I495 NB after Route 7 for 3 vehicle crash impacting main & express lanes. 1 van overturned. Crews worked efficiently to treat/transport 2 patients to hospital w/minor injuries. All lanes initially shutdown but reopened w/in 20 minutes.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

McLean Bible Church Lawsuit Dismissed — “The year-long legal fight between McLean Bible Church and a faction who accused leaders including David Platt of a ‘theological takeover’ has come to an end. On Friday, a Fairfax, Virginia, court dismissed a lawsuit from a group of current and former members of the Washington DC-area megachurch, who contested a June 2021 elder election for allegedly violating church bylaws.” [Christianity Today]

Reston Elementary School Gets Funds for Garden — “Lake Anne Elementary was recently awarded a $1,200 grant from EcoRise to create a community food garden. ‘It is our goal to produce food we can share with a food bank or members from our school community,’ said Consuelo Bachelet, a second-grade teacher at the school.” [Patch]

Fairfax County Eager to Draw FBI to Springfield — “No matter where it lands, federal officials suggest the FBI headquarters could host at least 7,500 personnel — about 3,500 fewer than what was pitched the last time around. Time, though, has only strengthened Springfield’s hand, [Board Chair Jeff] McKay said.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Board Approves $1M to Create Fund for Startups — “Fairfax Founders Fund will provide early capital to startup companies in Fairfax County.   The fund will target early-stage technology companies with technical assistance grants of up to $50,000 to help them prepare for later stage investments.” [Department of Economic Initiatives]

Reston Electric Vehicle Company Announces New Investors — “Reston, Virginia-based Electrify America…counts German industrial giant Siemens AG among its big backers…Volkswagen has also increased its investment in the company. Siemens is the first outside investor. The new funding totals $450 million and values Electrify America at $2.45 billion, the company said.” [WTOP]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 84 and low of 66. Sunrise at 5:48 am and sunset at 8:40 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A visitor walks into Capital One Hall in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

For a second year in a row, ArtsFairfax will hold its annual celebration of the local arts community on Oct. 28 at Capital One Hall, which also happens to be one of this year’s award recipients.

The Tysons performing arts venue will receive the Jinx Hazel Arts Award, the top honor from ArtsFairfax, the nonprofit Fairfax County arts agency announced last Tuesday (May 17).

The 2022 Arts Awards will also honor philanthropists Gary and Tina Mather, actor and former Reston Community Center assistant technical director Mark Brutsché, and George Mason University’s Fall for the Book festival, which will get a new Innovation Award.

“We are delighted to honor the remarkable contributions of this year’s Arts Awards honorees, who have all demonstrated a deep commitment to our community and to making Fairfax arts and culture more accessible,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda Sullivan said in the news release.

According to ArtsFairfax, the awards ceremony draws approximately 300 patrons every year. The 2021 awards were among the first events hosted by Capital One Hall, which opened on Oct. 1 at 7750 Capital One Tower Road.

Proceeds from the awards support the nonprofit’s activities, which include artist residencies, grants, promotion of local arts and cultural organizations, and advocacy for the arts.

ArtsFairfax announced on Thursday (May 19) that it had received a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to expand its artist residency program, which currently places professional artists in middle schools across the county to help educate students.

With the grant, the nonprofit says it will bring artists to a public elementary school, a public library, a county park, a community center, and an affordable housing development.

“By placing professional artists in communities with less access to arts, artists in residence can share their art form and spark creativity for participants of all ages,” ArtsFairfax said.

Here’s more from ArtsFairfax on this year’s Arts Awards recipients: Read More

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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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Fairfax County is looking to boost its tourism marketing efforts, which include destinations like Mount Vernon (courtesy Visit Fairfax/April Greer)

Fairfax County will apply for grant funding from the Virginia Tourism Corporation to help boost tourism in the area.

The Board of Supervisors approved a request yesterday (Tuesday) from the Department of Economic Initiatives for $4.17 million that will be used in conjunction with Visit Fairfax, the county’s travel marketing agency.

Virginia has allocated $50 million of its American Recovery Plan Act funds to the Tourism Recovery Program. The Virginia Tourism Corporation will award grants to all localities based on how much they contributed to total state tourism revenues in 2019.

Visit Fairfax President and CEO Barry Biggar told FFXnow that the organization is “tremendously grateful” for the ARPA grant’s approval.

“This allocation will assist us greatly and go a long way in our recovery efforts of rebuilding and revitalizing the tourism industry of Fairfax County, indeed helping it return to pre-pandemic levels and beyond,” Biggar said in a statement. “It also clearly underscores how significant Fairfax County is to the overall tourism economy of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

The county must submit a plan outlining how it will use the grant, which must go to marketing and promotional efforts. The funds must be spent by June 30, 2024.

According to a draft tourism recovery plan, Fairfax County lost $420 million in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on tourism. Tourism-related jobs accounted for at least 32% of all job losses in the Commonwealth, with 34% of hospitality job losses coming in Northern Virginia.

Job losses among hotel and restaurant workers were nearly twice as high as any other profession, according to data sourced from the Virginia Employment Commission. The document also notes that 63% of all job losses took place in industries with higher than average representation of people of color.

“The [grant] funds will be utilized to introduce new programs and projects of work that provide incremental economic impact to the county through avenues that Visit Fairfax hasn’t had the ability to previously explore,” Biggar said.

Strategic objectives listed in the county’s recovery plan include:

  • Increasing hotel occupancy and sales tax revenues by putting more group events and business travelers into Fairfax County hotels
  • Attracting and maximizing lucrative sporting tournaments for young and adult athletes
  • Increasing awareness of Fairfax County as a preferred destination for local and international tourist groups

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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Kanopy promotional image (Image via Kanopy/Twitter)

Fairfax County Public Library now offers access to Kanopy, a subscription on-demand streaming video service.

As of Feb. 1, library patrons can sign up for an account with five play credits per month, allowing users to have access to more than 30,000 films, documentaries and classics.

Kanopy is the first video streaming service tested by FCPL. Others like Hoopla — a library-focused version of popular streaming service Hulu — were simply too costly for the library system to consider, according to FCPL Director Jessica Hudson.

FCPL anticipates that the service will be well utilized by the community. The project was funded partly by money from the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill passed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grant funding for the project is expected to run through the end of September.

“Our goal was to have this for a year and to assess community interest and to go from there,” Hudson said at a FCPL Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 9.

Kanopy includes access to Arthouse Favorites, British Cinema, the Criterion Collection, the Great Courses, world cinema, Kanopy Kids and short films.

The streaming service is only available through libraries. Most users need a valid public library card number and a password or PIN. Universities also offer access to the service.

In Virginia, a limited number of libraries participate in the service, including Loudoun County. Arlington County offered it through May 18, 2020.

FCPL has an online guide to help patrons interested in setting up an account. Play credits reset on the first of each month, and unused credits from the previous month do not carry over.

Once a user presses play, one play credit is used, and the title expires after three days. But films in The Great Courses and Kanopy Kids do not use up any play credits.

Hudson noted that other streaming services could cost up to $1 million per year — a price tag that is not sustainable for the county. FCPL may consider making the service permanent, depending on utilization and the availability of long-term funding.

“This is a good way for us to test the waters and see how it goes,” she said.

Image via Kanopy

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