“He loves it. He loves the climbing and running space. I like it, just 'cause he's happy,” Ashley Harris said, as three-year-old Josiah raced from one slide to the next inside Chessie’s BIG Backyard’s Tiki Village. “He's happy, I'm happy.”
Harris wished for more shade, and then added, “There's so much variety. So much to do,” at , which officially . In fact, Harris nodded toward the long line to enter the nearby saying she “never stood in line last summer.”
Fairfax County Park Foundation Executive Director Bobbi Longworth is happy to hear that more people are enjoying the park, but not surprised.
“A number of people say, ‘This is free?!’” Longworth said. “It is free to the attendees. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not free to the park. There’s a cost for building these. There’s a cost for the summer concert series … and all that is made possible through generous donations and sponsorships.”
So she, the foundation’s staff and many supporters are already working to raise the $730,000 needed to build Nautical Cove, the second part of the three-phase Chessie’s BIG Backyard project. She said the Tiki Village cost about $600,000 to bring to life.
“It would be wonderful if we had a very large donation, and we could just get going right now. But we’re expecting it to be over the next few years. And of course the fundraising is being initiated in a number of ways. We’re reaching out to individuals, foundations, corporations and government grants as well. We’ve got a few irons in the fire, and we’re waiting for those to come to fruition,” Longworth said.
She said donations to the FCPF are going up for a variety of reasons. One of them is that “more and more people are including the park foundation in their will or estate plan,” Longworth said.
The funds for the accessible tree house next to the Chessie's BIG Backyard play area were from a bequest. The sprayground was funded from the Joey Pizzano Memorial Fund.
Longworth trusts that seeing children play in the Tiki Village will inspire donors.
"This is really becoming an overall family recreation area where individuals can come and spend the day, and it’s also terrific to bring that to a part of the county that tends to have a bit less of these types of opportunities.”
To make a donation, please visit fairfaxparkfoundation.org.
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Have you been to Chessie's BIG Backyard yet?