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Did you know that Virginia has regularly ranked near the bottom among the states in terms of state per capita spending on the state park system? And, did you know that, despite being severely underfunded and understaffed, the overall state and local economic impact generated by the state park system in Calendar Year 2015 was more than $209 million? And, did you know that in 2015 volunteers contributed 214,194 hours of support to the state park system? Join us to help support Virginia's parks.

The Virginia Association for Parks (VAFP) is the nonprofit umbrella organization for the respective citizen support groups (Friends Groups) and individual volunteers supporting the 36 state parks, 62 state natural areas, and the 35 national parks, monuments, battlefields, trails, parkways and historic sites located across the Commonwealth.

VAFP is unique in that we know of no other organization that is working towards the goal of a "seamless" park system from a user perspective. Our view is that "a park is a park" regardless of the funding source-national, state, regional, or local.

In keeping with that view, VAFP is supportive of all parks within the Commonwealth. We advocate for park issues at the local, state, and national levels and seek funds through tax deductible gifts, grants, contributions, and other mechanisms to support our operations and invest in parks. We also offer free technical advice and assistance to those who wish to form new citizen support organizations. And, we conduct semi-annual conferences that include training sessions and networking opportunities to exchange ideas.

State monies are not presently available for many park system priorities and, given the present economy accompanied by the history of the perpetually under-funded and under-staffed park system budget, state monies will not be available in the foreseeable future.

Thus, VAFP is seeking other sources to provide the much needed funding for park system priorities. Please consider making a general donation or a targeted donation to one of VAFP's park system projects.

Donations are tax deductible.

Use PayPal to donate to the Virginia Association for Parks.

To donate by mail, make your check payable to Virginia Association for Parks, annotate the check with the purpose of the donation, and mail the check to:

Johnny Finch, President
Virginia Association for Parks
3601 Burton Road
Bumpass, VA 23024

Belle Isle Spray Ground Initiative

VAFP is working with the Friends Of Belle Isle State Park to raise tax deductible funds to build a "spray ground" or children's water park at Belle Isle. This project is a prototype for Virginia State Parks and following successful construction of this project in partnership with the Friends of Belle Isle State Park we expect to pursue similar projects in other parks that lack suitable water features.

Our Children Need To Interact With Nature

The children of yesterday spent much of their days running, jumping and playing outside. Recently the trend has been for children to stay indoors, mesmerized by video games, cell phones, computers and other electronic gadgets. Physical inactivity in children has led to dramatic increases in attention deficit disorder (ADD), childhood obesity, and "Nature Deficit Disorder" (a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods ).

When our children interact with nature, a range of positive effects occur. These include an increase in the following areas: cognitive functioning, imagination, sense of wonder, motor fitness, heath, psychological adjustment, and environmental ethic. Virginia recognizes our parks as the best source for contact with nature. In order to facilitate a child's return to nature, we need to identify barriers that keep families from visiting parks, create strategies to reconnect families to nature and discover the best ways to reach children and families.

A Water Facility At Belle Isle Will Reach Out To Families

Water allows families to cool off and enjoy nature at the same time. In the hot summer months, no one can deny the relief offered by pools, beaches and a fun spray ground.

Besides offering a break from hot, humid Northern Neck summers, consider the following facts: Families in campgrounds are always looking new ways to enjoy their time together. Camper surveys have proven this. Rivers are often a bad alternative because swimming access is limited. The public pool, although at one time popular, has become dated. Unfortunately, there will be no new park pool in the master plan until 2019-2024.

The benefits of a spray ground in our park include a kid friendly play environment. This means a programmable, expandable facility that is both safe and a great way to cool off on a hot Virginia day.

Other Far-Reaching Benefits Of A Spray Ground

More people, especially children, will be visiting the park and spending more time in nature, achieving the main goal of Virginia's "Child And Nature Plan For Action". A spray ground will be a magnet for other park activities, a long term improvement for the park and an amenity for rural community. This cost effective program should be considered a device for children to improve their health and a training ground for children to become nature advocates.

What Kind Of Spray Ground?

We are looking for a spray ground that will accommodate 30 guests (1 child per 20 sq ft). The target age of these guests will be from toddlers to 12 year olds. The facility should include a 30-space parking lot and be fenced in. Companies that we have inquired pricing from are Rain Drop Products, LLC and ARC, Aquatic Recreation Company. Features of the spray ground that we have compared are a re-circulating water system, 12 and 14 water features and 1600 and 1750 sq. ft.

Costs Of Putting In A Spray Ground

Estimated Building Costs - $417,600

Yearly Operating and Maintenance Costs - $3,220

We have used the VA State Park Planning Cost Analysis formula

What Are Our Next Steps?

Support and Advise


Additional Sponsors

Funding Opportunities

A spray ground at Belle Isle State Park strongly supports Virginia's Children and Nature Plan for Action by bringing more children into the park. Together we can reintroduce children to the natural world, pass environmental values on to them and create future stewards of the earth.

Use PayPal to make a donation directly to the Belle Isle Spray Ground Initiative.

Playground Equipment for Toddlers Needed

kids trainPlayground equipment designed for 2-5 year olds (toddlers) is needed throughout the Virginia State Park system. Existing playgrounds, with few exceptions, were designed for 5-12 year olds.

The Park System has more than 7 million visitors each year and many families have children in the toddler age range. The Commonwealth has no funds for providing such equipment. Thus, the Virginia Association for Parks (VAFP), a 501(c)(3) organization, is seeking help in funding this equipment need.

Project Description

Nine state parks have a significant railroad history and/or presence. VAFP would like to obtain the requisite funds for purchasing and installing playground trains for toddlers in these nine parks.

In addition to the playground trains providing excellent platforms for toddler recreation and physical exercise, the combination of the railroad and park histories will provide wonderful opportunities for educational and interpretive programming for all ages.

The Friends of Lake Anna State Park have taken the lead in developing a prototype. They have researched manufacturers, obtained cost estimates, and selected both a product (see above picture) and manufacturer of choice. The Lake Anna State Park Friends Group has raised the requisite funding and the toddler train has been installed in the park.

Between 1830 and 1850, Virginia was the third largest gold producing state in the Nation. Thus, in addition to the playground train providing an excellent platform for toddler recreation and physical exercise, the combination of the goldmine and the playground train will provide wonderful opportunities for educational and interpretive programming for all ages.

Estimated Project Cost

The estimated cost per playground is $30,526.85. Thus, the projected cost for the nine parks totals $274,741.65.

The estimated costs include shipping and manufacturer installation, after which the manufacturer will assume related liability.

State Parks with Significant Railroad History

Lake Anna Prototype Project Description

Manufacturer Specs and Cost Proposal

Toddler playground train funding request letter

Vintage photo of train

The New River Trail Conservancy

Virginia's New River Trail stretches 57 scenic miles along a prehistoric, mountain-sided channel, traveled through the ages by a north-flowing river, countless wild species, Native Americans, early settlers, and the railroad whose bed composes this path

But Virginia's longest state park is also the narrowest, with a mere 80-foot-wide right-of-way in most locations.

While park staff work devotedly to maintain this corridor, its surrounding beauty is due to generations of adjacent landowners whose stewardship has retained the songbird habitat, soaring palisades, woodlands, pastures, riparian buffer, fresh breezes, and quiet, sweet solitudes that make the trail experience a rejuvenating step back in time

Such rural landscapes have vanished from much of the Eastern U.S. - a fate you can help our park avoid with a spirit of conservation.

* Please respect private property along the trail

* Please consider helping to protect this quiet, scenic legacy by donating to the New River Trail Conservancy Project. This nonprofit project exists solely to protect the scenic landscape surrounding the Trail, through the establishment of conservation easements. Every donated dollar protects another bit of habitat and beauty for generations to come - a vital step on the path between a living history and a sustainable future.

Use PayPay to donate to the VAFP to conserve and protect the pristine beauty of the New River Trail.

Wanted by Tomorrows Generation:

You can still find these rare treasures along the New River Trail State Park, but they are vanishing from America's landscapes, and potentially from this one as well.

Redbuds in bloomThe scenic New River Trail, winding along the prehistoric, pastoral channels of Chestnut Creek and New River, is Virginia's longest State Park. But it's also the narrowest, with only an 80-foot-wide right-of-way for most of the length, and few protected scenic buffers.

What will the ancient corridors of the acclaimed trail look, sound and feel like in a few years? Will the trail become a noisy sidewalk through lit-up developments?

Or will children and adults still find the mystical beauty and songbird habitat that make this 57-mile long Virginia State Park a welcome refuge for people and wildlife?

It's Our Decision

The rural character of the New River Trail has depended on the generations of adjacent landowners who have retained the soaring palisades, woodlands, pastures, and quiet, sweet solitudes that make the trail experience a rejuvenating step back in time.

Today, as family farms are sold and development springs up, land-use experts predict that without incentive for protection, little greenspace will remain undeveloped. In fact, natural landscapes have already vanished from much of the Eastern U.S.

The New River Trail Conservancy Fund evolved to address that ongoing change.

This nonprofit fund exists solely to protect the scenic landscape surrounding the Trail, through the establishment of conservation easements. Every donated dollar protects a bit of shade, beauty and habitat for generations to come.

A Gift to Grandchildren

Protecting the New River Trail corridors is a time-limited offer. Within a decade, many land tracts will have become developed or unavailable for protection. This means the next generations will not have the choices we have today. Their landscapes, wildlife habitat, water quality and scenic beauty depend largely on our actions or inaction today.

Your donation works to save a bit of the natural world for your grandchildren. While other material gifts have a short lifespan, protected rural landscapes will continue giving and living for decades and generations, a needed sanctuary for body, mind and soul.

Use PayPal to donate to the New River Trail Conservancy Fund.

Taking Nature Back Home

A Silent Spring?

The songbirds, owls and spring peepers you may hear along the New River Trail are vanishing from landscapes in the U.S. and around the world.

One-third of our nation's 800 bird species are in steep decline, threatened or endangered, due to development, suburban sprawl and pesticides.

Fireflies, butterflies, newts and salamanders are likewise in decline.

You can help invite these creatures back home to America by restoring habitat on your property, or in a churchyard, schoolyard, hospital or office grounds. What habitat?

Songbirds, owls and overwintering birds need tree canopy and thickets, not merely a flat lawn. Planting hedgerows and islands of trees, shrubs and blooming plants offers nesting songbirds shelter from cats, raccoons and bluejays, while feeding pollinators and providing firefly perches.

Provide this kind of living shelter and watch your land come back to life a musical sound and light show!

Keep Those Autumn Leaves!

Trees, shrubs, wildflowers and future crops need topsoil restored by organic matter. Sending grass clippings and leaves off to a landfill means throwing away the valuable food of nature.

Songbirds and fireflies also need this humus. Fireflies begin life as glowworms, in damp, humus-like terrain, not lawn.

Songbirds, meanwhile, scratch through mulch, humus and decaying organic matter and logs for grubs and worms.

Visit the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat program and certification web page for details.

Your River Begins At Home

The care of rivers is not a matter of rivers, but of the human heart.
- Tenaka Shozo

Do you know your watershed address? Your home town, driveway, lawn and kitchen sink drain into a creek, a river, and eventually the ocean. The New River flows north to join the Ohio, then the south-flowing Mississippi, then the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, more easterly rivers in Virginia drain into the Chesapeake Bay.

All of these inland waters carry construction silt, lawn fertilizer, herbacides, motor oils from parking lots and roads, cigarette butts, trash, and household or carwash detergents into both Gulf and Bay. This toxic soup is great for harmful algae-growth but bad for fish, crabs and oysters, as algae depletes water oxygen and kills the aquatic life below, creating expanding "dead zones."

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is tackling this enormous problem in mid-Atlantic communities, but restoring the Gulf and the Bay requires a change in everyone's inland habits.

Virginia State Parks Memorial and Honor Gift Program

Honor an individual or organization through a Memorial or Honor Gift at a Virginia State Park.

Memorial and honor gifts are a thoughtful way to celebrate a birthday, wedding, new baby, graduation or any special occasion. They also function as an expression of sympathy by honoring the memory of a friend or relative. Honor a family member or organization through a Memorial Gift at a Virginia State Park.

While we are always happy to receive financial gifts, we are often asked for opportunities to provide some structure as part of the gift. The Virginia Association for Parks has developed a list of memorial and honor gift items for this purpose and is working with Virginia State Parks on developing additional options.

Memorial and Honor Gifts

Bench - $1,000

Park staff will install a 6 foot bench made of recycled materials. A plaque will be mounted on the bench (up to 3 lines, 42 characters per line). Benches will have black legs and supports with a choice of color for the seat and backing to be determined by the Park Manager to maintain uniformity within the park.

Stone - $5,000

A large granite (or material appropriate to the location) stone will be etched with text (up to 3 lines, 42 characters per line).

Covered Picnic Table - $10,000

An accessible picnic table made of recycled materials with a covered shelter will be installed on a cement pad and include an accessible walkway. A plaque will be mounted on the table or structure (up to 3 lines, 42 characters per line).

Playground - $17,000

Park staff will install a playground featuring 3 spring toys and a 4 swing complex (or comparable equipment in price for the park). Timbers will create a border to hold mulch or other safety material base in the play area. A plaque will be included (up to 3 lines, 42 characters per line).

Picnic Shelter - $100,000**

Park will arrange construction of an 840 square foot picnic with shelter with tables to include an accessible walkway. A plaque will be mounted on the picnic shelter (up to 3 lines with up to 42 characters per line). The group will receive a free use of the shelter once per year for ten years (advance reservations must be made and all other park fees apply).

** Due to varied construction cost this price could go up or down, but is fairly close to 2012 standards in parks. Additional amenities for the shelter to include electricity, water faucet, and bathrooms are available for an extra cost.

If you are interested in a Memorial Gift, please contact the Virginia State Parks Reservation Center at 800-933-7275. Please tell the person who answers the phone that you are interested in the Memorial Gift program and you will be transferred to the Memorial Gift coordinator who will walk you through the process. The Memorial Gift coordinator will get basic information and arrange an in person meeting or conference call with the appropriate Park Manager to start the process and will coordinate the steps to complete the gift.

Every effort will be made to accommodate donor requests for a particular location or placement within the park, but the Park Manager will have final say on the location based on sound management of the grounds. The Park may have previously designated locations appropriate for the donated item. Larger donations like the playground or picnic shelter may be controlled by the Park’s Master Plan and will certainly be impacted by parking facilities and impact on the park’s operation.

Virginia State Parks will not be responsible for replacing the bench, rock or plaque if damaged or vandalized and reserves the right to remove in those circumstances.

Virginia State Parks will maintain memorial picnic table, playground, and shelter, like any other facility, but will not be responsible for replacing any of these structures at the end of their useful life span, due to natural disasters or vandalism.

Your voice for Virginia's parks.