Officials with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks) and Winkler Botanical Preserve on Sept. 15 hosted a ceremony marking the integration of the 44.6-acre nature preserve in Alexandria’s West End into the regional-park system.
As part of the transfer agreement, the Winkler Organization is providing NOVA Parks with $1 million for capital needs and more than $3 million as an operating endowment to support the preserve’s educational programs and incorporate new improvements. In addition, the Winkler Organization is gifting the Alexandria city government with $1 million to advance community engagement and learning resources.
Partnering with the city government, new environmental-education programs will be developed for school groups, and the once-popular summer camps will return to the site.
“A generation of Alexandria youth, including both of my children, have enjoyed the outdoors at the Winkler Botanical Preserve,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said. “We are profoundly grateful for the generosity of the Winkler Organization to ensure the accessibility of this natural space for generations to come.”
The Winkler Botanical Preserve – which features streams, a pond, a waterfall and trails – was created in 1979 aiming to protect natural space in rapidly urbanizing Alexandria. The preserve, located at 5400 Roanoke Ave., was established by Catherine Winkler Herman, a philanthropist and avid environmentalist, in memory of her late husband, real-estate developer Mark Winkler, and was designed by their daughter, landscape architect Tori Winkler Thomas, as a place to protect native plants such as swamp rose mallow and wildlife such as ospreys and hawks.
Tori Winkler Thomas also led the preserve for more than 25 years before her retirement. The preserve’s distinctive log-cabin headquarters, Catherine’s Lodge, long served as the center for the ecological education programs Ms. Thomas designed and oversaw.
“The enormity of this gift cannot be overstated. Catherine Winkler Herman’s vision and Tori Winkler’s brilliance have created an unparalleled botanical oasis within our highly urbanized Northern Virginia,” said Cate Magennis Wyatt, chair of the regional-park authority.
Founded in 1959, NOVA Parks with its new addition now manages 35 parks with 12,380 acres of parkland.