The Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Award was established to pay tribute to lifelong parks volunteer Bill Thomas and to honor and encourage those residents who also demonstrate a passionate dedication and support for our dynamic programs, natural resources and public open spaces.
2016 Award Winners
Paul Holland: A dedicated community leader, Paul Holland has served Arlington in number of capacities. He is a former Chairman of the Park and Recreation Commission, is Vice President of the Arlington Boathouse Foundation, serves on the Board of Directors of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing and is currently the President of the Waverly Hills Civic Association. With almost a decade of service on the Park and Recreation Commission and more than 500 volunteer hours under his belt, Paul has been a strong voice for community interests on parks, recreation, and open space.
Of the many volunteer roles he’s played within the County, his main focus as a member of the Park and Recreation Commission was promoting and expanding urban parks in Arlington County and advocating for land acquisition and strategic planning. As the co-chairman on the Mosaic Park Planning Task Force, Paul help negotiate a draft compromise between adjacent neighborhoods and the owner of the Founders Square development. Through a transfer of development rights proposal, Arlington County secured approximately $6.6 million to construct a future Mosaic Park. As the Park and Recreation Commission representative to the Realize Rosslyn planning effort, Paul helped develop consensus recommendations, including the proposed 18th Street corridor, which will provide a pedestrian connection through the heart of the sector and building strong connections through an esplanade that connects Rosslyn with the Potomac River and potential recreation opportunities along the shoreline. An integral member of the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) and advocate for maximizing open space on the site, Paul helped innovate a scattered site, including a 9,000SF public playground on the site of a new affordable housing project. Finally, during his time as a leader of the Park and Recreation Commission, Paul chaired a subcommittee to develop a county-wide park land acquisition strategy and advocated for a revised Public Spaces Master Plan.
Without Paul’s help and support, staff would not have the wherewithal to improve this park infrastructure and expansion. A true Arlington leader, Paul has applied his strategic planning acumen to create a community-based vision for the future of Arlington parks.
Yu-hsin Hsu: An ardent supporter of Arlington’s natural resources, Yu-hsin Hsu has volunteered with Long Branch Nature Center, the Arlington Central Library pollinator garden, the Natural Resources Management Unit and Arlington Regional Master Naturalists.
At Long Branch Nature Center, Yu-hsin has been invaluable as a Saturday animal care volunteer since fall 2013, logging about 160 hours and freeing up weekend staff to attend to visitor contact and other activities as well as directing other animal care volunteers in their tasks. In addition to animal care, Yu-hsin helps with invasive exotic plant removals and preparing for twice-yearly native plant sales at the center.
Yu-hsin has been a volunteer with the Arlington Central Library garden project since early spring 2016. At that time, she just happened to pass by the Library’s native pollinator garden, dropped down alongside a staff member who was weeding, and offered to help. She has not stopped helping since. The pollinator garden was initiated by Lynn Kristianson, a beloved Library staff member, who sadly passed away in 2015. The garden languished in Lynn’s absence until Yu-hsin, just finishing a Master Naturalist certification program, offered to help get the garden ready for a dedication ceremony honoring Ms. Kristianson. Yu-hsin was so attached to the garden that she decided to adopt it and coordinate other volunteers to bring it back to its original glory. Margaret Brown, Central Services Division Chief at the Library says of Yu-hsin: “She brings to the garden a Lynn-like spunky energy and perseverance, as well as a similar passion for educating others about the critical importance of pollinators and native plants. She is tireless in her efforts and selfless in her generosity.”
The final piece of Yu-hsin volunteering trifecta is her work with the Natural Resources Management Unit, educating and involving children in the Remove Invasive Plants (RiP) program, volunteering at the native plant nursery, and with habitat restoration projects. She has also helped inventory County plants and animals through the annual National Geographic Bioblitz, and engages in other conservation and outreach activities through the Master Naturalist Program.
2015 Award Winner
Judy Funderburk: It’s rare to find a community member as dedicated to beautifying our green spaces and educating our residents as 2015 Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award winner Judy Funderburk. In addition to taking meticulous care of the Glencarlyn Branch Library teaching/demonstration garden, she empowers others to join in and help the cause. Resident Max Ferlauto recalls his time assisting Judy in the garden and credits her with deepening his lifelong love of nature.
Judy became a certified member of the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia 20 years ago and has logged over 6,000 volunteer hours as part of that organization. In addition to her extensive work at the stunning Glencarlyn Garden, Judy has participated in many other projects, including meadow restoration along the W&OD Trail in Bon Air Park where she rounded up more than a dozen other Master Gardeners to remove invasive plants and planted over 300 native perennials in their place. Additionally, Judy is a strong advocate of Arlington’s street tree effort, and notifies County staff of potential areas for expanding our tree canopy.
Judy is described by her peers as an energetic, outgoing person who has a passion for what she does. According to fellow Master Gardener Mary Free, Judy is “able to connect with people, project her enthusiasm, and impart her vast knowledge about horticulture and nature.” The hands-on training that she provides to groups such as the Girl Scouts of America, preschool children, fellow Master Gardeners and others ensures that the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden will remain a treasure for years to come. Judy’s passion is fueled by the knowledge that her volunteer work helps create places of respite and beauty here in Arlington. She hopes all who enter are renewed and find resources to take with them that will make their own lives and homes more beautiful.
Interested in an informational walk-through tour of the Glencarlyn Garden? Judy would love to host you. Give her a call at 703-671-5310 to set a time and date!
2014 Award Winners
Don Walsh: Since 2007, Mr. Don Walsh has been committed to preserving Arlington’s natural environment. He first began his volunteer service removing invasive plants at Lacey Woods Park. In 2010, he joined the eight-week Arlington/Alexandria Tree Stewards training program, contributing numerous hours over several weeks repotting over 500 individual one-gallon containers of native trees. This effort helped renew the root system and overall viability of these trees and established an inventory of native trees. Another notable project is the inventory and mapping of over 170 trees located within Arlington’s Ornamental Tree Garden. This mapping helped identify the vast number of tree species that had been planted over the past 25 years but not documented. This project also assisted the landscape manager in developing a new tree identification and education program for the public and allowed the landscape unit to begin planting additional tree species in available spaces. It is estimated that Mr. Walsh has contributed well over 700 volunteer hours. Mr. Walsh’s dedication to Arlington’s urban forestry greatly exceeds expectations; he provides an invaluable resource to staff and residents with his breadth of knowledge and exceptional time commitment.
Mary McLean: Invasive plants don’t stand a chance with Mary McLean. Volunteering and organizing invasive plant removal and park clean-up events at Tuckahoe Park has been her Master Naturalist service project since 2009. Ms. McLean has enlisted the help of various community groups including neighbors, Tuckahoe school families, local high school and college age volunteers, Scout groups, AmeriCorps teams, native plant support groups, and other Arlington residents as well as volunteers from across the region. Ms. McLean’s energy and commitment to beautifying Tuckahoe has led to its dramatic transformation. The park’s significant decline in non-native, invasive species, the restored health of the native trees, and the return of native shrubs and groundcovers have been extraordinary. The recovery of the natural aspects of the park has coincided beautifully with the recent park renovations and efforts to remove invasive species carried out by Arlington’s Parks and Recreation staff. To help educate and motivate others to join in the beautification effort, she has also conducted focused tours and presentations on Tuckahoe Park’s underground stream and other ecological wonders. Ms. McLean volunteered for Tuckahoe Elementary for 14 years and served 5 years professionally as the Outdoor Learning Coordinator at Tuckahoe School. During that time she worked with teachers, volunteers and students in Tuckahoe Park on habitat restoration planting natives, erosion control and learning the natural history of the park. Along with teacher Estelle Panagakos, Ms. McLean received a Virginia Meaningful Watershed Experience Grant for work with third graders in the park. Ms. McLean’s first project in Tuckahoe Park in 1995 was working with neighbor, Beth Reese, and members of Park’s design staff and helped the Arlington East Falls Church Civic Association obtain a grant to build the Nature Trail in Tuckahoe Park.
2013 Award Winners
Keith B. Fred is committed to maintaining and improving Arlington dog parks. For 13 years he’s been organizing park clean-ups, donating materials to the parks and reaching out to potential sponsors to assist in funding the park maintenance. In 2001 when Mr. Fred first starting visiting the Shirlington dog park he discovered there was a need for a volunteer organization to support the park’s maintenance. Thus, he helped form the Shirlington Dogs II group. Since that time, visitors to the park have increased by 300% to over 200,000 people and 300,000 dogs annually. Serving as a community liaison to County staff, Mr. Fred has worked on various improvements to the Shirlington dog park, including fencing along the entire length of the park bordering Four Mile Run stream, the installation of new fixtures to provide necessary drinking water for dogs, the design and funding for the new main entrance gates, and many more.
Peter Jones has shared his love of plants with countless Arlingtonians. You see his handiwork in our gardens and you learn from his expertise in our classes. Inspired first by the gardens in Europe and then by a bonsai demonstration at the National Arboretum, Mr. Jones took up bonsai as a hobby in 1972. Since then, he has conducted countless community workshops, classes and one-on-one trainings to interested Arlingtonians across the County. When plans for the new Walter Reed Community Center were being developed, Mr. Jones advocated for the inclusion of an educational display gardens of dwarf evergreens and conifers. Come by the Center to see the 3,125 square foot garden that includes many plants donated from Mr. Jones’ personal collection. In fact, he donated a prized 25-year old Japanese cut maple leaf to the Center that was stolen just before the playground’s ribbon cutting. Reading this story in Washington Post, Merrifield Nursery donated a replacement. Mr. Jones has continued his support of the Walter Reed garden and has organized a dedicated group of volunteers to maintain the space.
Arlington Regional Master Naturalist (ARMN) volunteers have been supporting Arlington’s natural environment for the past seven years. Volunteers engage in a wide range of service in the form of environmental stewardship, education and citizen science projects. In Arlington, some of the projects include: stream water monitoring; leading monthly invasive plant control efforts; assisting County Naturalists and APS teachers in environmental education; assisting with flora and fauna surveys; working on plant rescues and restoration projects; and educating residents about improving natural habitat. To become an Arlington Regional Master Naturalist, volunteers must complete a four-month training course taught by recognized experts in all aspects of natural history and provide a minimum of 40 hours of environmental service annually. A notable project that ARMN volunteers support is the preservation of Arlington’s Magnolia bog, a globally rare plant community. The bog is one of the most sensitive natural habitats in the area and requires great care and attention, which the volunteers provide with skill and dedication. In 2013 alone, ARMN volunteers provided 2,350 hours in environmental education, 4,660 hours in invasive plant and other stewardship efforts, and 1,280 hours in collecting and analyzing data as part of citizen science projects. To date, ARMN volunteers have organized and offered the training course twice a year, providing additional volunteers who become invaluable assets augmenting Arlington County’s environmental work.
2012 Award Winners
Steve Young has had a long-standing commitment to protecting Arlington’s natural resources – and for working to remove non-native plant species’ from our parks. A well-known figure for invasive plant removal at Long Branch Park, Mr. Young has also been involved in a variety of other projects, including regular park and stream clean-ups, leading bird walks and surveys, and blogging about parks and his volunteer experiences.
Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center (FoGBNC) is an extremely dedicated group of citizens who provide invaluable support to the center. In 2009, when the center was slated to close due to budget cuts, the group raised $10,000 to continue operations. In addition to the monetary assistance the FoGBNC provides, volunteers from the group also participate in and host events to raise funds for improvements such as the aviary for the center’s barred owl that was constructed in 2011.
Nominations are judged on the basis of the nominee’s direct involvement with an activity or contribution. A contribution is the giving of personal time, expertise, a tangible gift or financial donation. The activity or contribution upon which the nomination is based must have been completed prior to the year of selection. The award may be for a specific accomplishment or for an accumulation of accomplishments over an extended period of time.
Eligibility for the Award
The Bill Thomas Park Service Award is open to individual and groups. Excluded from nomination for the award are currently serving members of the Arlington County Board, and Arlington Park and Recreation Commission, and Arlington County Staff. Widespread participation in the award process is encouraged. Anyone may submit a nomination for The Bill Thomas Park Service Award.
Awards are made annually on a case-by-case basis. There is no requirement to select an award winner within a given year. Ordinarily, there is not more than one award winner each year. Winners are selected based on submissions. If a submission is not selected, it is reviewed the following year with new nominations.
The Bill Thomas Park Service Volunteer Award Committee selects the award recipient. The committee is approved by members of the Park and Recreation Commission and composed of a representative from the Park and Recreation Commission, Department of Parks and Recreation, Friends of Arlington Parks, and Arlington Civic Federation as well as an at-large committee member appointee by the Park and Recreation Commission Chair.