Fourteen percent of the student population in Fairfax County
Schools has a disability, according to statistics. Our Special
Harbor spraypark in Franconia, Va., provides a water-centered
recreational opportunity that welcomes local children of all
abilities and economic means.
The brightly colored, whimsical, fully accessible complex opened
in 2011. All features encourage interaction and stir the
imagination. The Chesapeake Bay-themed attractions include a
spraying osprey nest, Chessie the Sea Serpent, misting sunflowers,
a water maze and spraying cannons. For those wanting gentler play,
there is a quiet partially shaded beach with gentle bubblers and
To accommodate wheelchairs, the skipjack and crab boat features
were designed with wide entrances. Wheelchairs that can be used on
the spraypark are available for loan at no cost to users.
To ensure order and safety, three or four attendants monitor the
complex. Some are trained lifeguards. Their responsibilities
include maintaining the facility, providing customer service,
promoting safe behaviors and providing first-aid care if
Recognizing that 24 percent of the local student population
qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch, a common indicator of
poverty, admission to Our Special Harbor is free.
It was constructed as part of a larger recreation area through a
public/private partnership, and the formula has been a hit. After
just over a year in existence, summer attendance at the park
exceeds 77,000. With the initial success of the spraypark, a larger
family recreation area has been developed, which also is
barrier-free to accommodate individuals with disabilities.
Designed and built by the Joey Pizzano Memorial Fund, with
additional funding provided by the Virginia Board for People with
Disabilities under the federal Developmental Disabilities and Bill
of Rights Act, Our Special Harbor is operated by the Fairfax County
Park Authority. It features a spraypark that’s a zero-water
depth facility, which serves as the focal point for a larger Family
Recreation Area, including the accessible Tree House and
Chessie’s Big Backyard playground, funded by contributions to
the Fairfax County Park Foundation.