Judge’s Comment:“Everything is just fabulous!”
Judge’s Comment:“Everything is just fabulous!”

The Fairfax County Park Authority offers award-winning aquatic recreation for everyone in the diverse community it serves, from the youngest beginning swimmer to the serious competitors and those with special needs.

With 12 aquatics facilities, including nine indoor RECenter natatoriums, one outdoor themed waterpark, a fully accessible outdoor spraypark and one outdoor community pool, this agency thinks big.

The Fairfax facilities offer traditional and nontraditional aquatic programs, such as swim lessons, competitive swimming and diving, synchronized swimming, water polo, kayak rolling, scuba and underwater hockey, as well as local police, fire and rescue training. A robust adapted aquatics program includes learn-to-swim, aquatic exercise, Paralympic swim development and Special Olympics training. Annual attendance at just the nine RECenters is more than one million.

At least 100 different languages are spoken in Fairfax County, and getting people of different backgrounds involved in aquatics means building bridges across cultural barriers. One example of that is at the George Washington RECenter. The staff uses blackout curtains and female lifeguards so Muslim women can swim while still maintaining their cultural traditions.

When two children drowned in a local lake, Park Authority staff members held Spanish language forums with mothers to encourage them to sign their children up for swim lessons. Partners donated swimsuits and goggles to make the lessons possible for low-income families.

To ensure safety at all Fairfax County Park Authority facilities, the agency employs more than 300 lifeguards, trained through Ellis & Associates. And aquatic operations staffers share their knowledge of industry best practices and trends with community pool operators through a “Help for Community Pools” workshop that reaches more than 100 local community pools.

This level of public service is accomplished through revenue-based programs with minimal reliance on county tax dollars. Because of its efforts, the agency has been acknowledged nationally for its long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, stewardship, program development and management.

The Fairfax County Park Authority has received a Gold Medal Award from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, in partnership with the National Recreation and Parks Association. In 2010, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation deemed the Authority the Healthiest Community in Virginia.