The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which has been expanding its park and recreational operations in Loudoun over the past few years, is celebrating the opening of two new facilities at its Temple Hall Farm Park north of Leesburg.
Today was the time to open a new facility, Dee Dee Symington Equestrian Trail for area riders and learn more about the trail’s namesake. Next week, NVRPA leaders will return to the property to dedicate its new $1.5 million visitor center.
Dee Dee Symington was the daughter of Valeria (“A.V.”) and James Symington, who bought the historic Temple Hall Farm in the 1940s. Dee Dee Symington was an avid horsewoman who enjoying riding over the farm before her death in a skydiving accident in 1967. After A.V. Symington’s husband died, she donated the property to the park authority in the late 1980s. After her death, she left bequests to a number of Loudoun institutions, including Temple Hall Farm.
NVRPA Executive Director Paul Gilbert said this week the trail was something that had been on the plans for years, and “it seemed like a perfect fit for the farm,” and a good way for the public to enjoy it. The four-mile trail spans the perimeter of the farm. It was constructed last winter by Temple Hall Farm staff to accommodate riding horses and carriage horses. It will be available for use during regular farm hours, free of charge. Neighbor Brandon Kemp worked to build nine jumps on the trail as part of his Eagle Scout project.
Speaking to a crown of rider on mounts and neighbors today, Temple Hill Park Manager George Tabb credited Farm Manager John Moore with spearheading the trail project. “John is a good idea person. And John is the guy who thought of this idea and through his energy and his forthright determination made this happen.”
Moore completed the project in partnership with Broad Run Veterinary Service and the Tristate Riding Club, which today contributed another $1,000 check to support the project.
Also during the brief ceremony Rick Walker, who was a friend of Dee Dee Symington, shared his memories of her with the riders gathered to take the inguinal walk on trail. He recounted their times together, periods of correspondence when she was away at high school and college and her as cautiously adventurous personality.
“So I hope you will enjoy the adventure of the new trail and as you do that you will remember warmly the graceful, thoughtful woman for whom it is named,” he said.
The park authority will hold a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, May 17, to open the Temple Hall Farm Visitor’s Center, following a private tour of White’s Ford Regional Park by local dignitaries, NVRPA Board members and press.
The building is LEED certified, constructed to be as energy efficient and environmentally conscious as possible, Gilbert said. It was part of the master plan the board approved several years ago. Funds came “100 percent from A.V. Symington,” Gilbert said.
The public use of the farm has increased to an extent “we wanted to be able to bring in school groups and have classroom space,” Gilbert noted. The new center also includes donated antique farm equipment, office space and bathrooms—a distinct improvement, Gilbert said, adding the park’s staff would be overjoyed to exchange the former “facilities” for decent toilets. “That’s a nice upgrade,” he said. The building has 100-year-old farm timber framing, collected from three different historic barns. “There’s a lot of recycled and locally sourced material,” he said.
In another plus, the park authority’s foundation has received a $20,000 donation from the Dominion Foundation in support of its Nature Nuts program. The proceeds come from Dominion’s Trail Mix, an annual event that celebrates the W&OD Trail and encourages healthy outdoor experiences through three successful events. The Nature Nuts regional program has the goal of providing a meaningful outdoor experience to half a million children over the next five years throughout Northern Virginia. Its mission to expand and improve programs and facilities that help children recreate in a natural environment. The Nature Nuts Fund will support activities that facilities youth programs and facilities.