Rendering Accessibility to Hidden Oaks

Hidden Oaks Nature Center (HONC), which is set within Annandale Community Park, has never had assigned maintenance nor natural resource management staff. With the reduction of Area 2 maintenance personnel, Hidden Oaks receives only limited support with trash and snow removal, plus emergency tree-fall cleanup. HONC is nestled within 52 acres of the community park and includes 2 miles of wooded trails. Yet no trail or garden maintenance is provided by the county. Fortunately, Hidden Oaks has Bob Dinse.

In nominating Bob for a 2020 Elly Doyle Park Service Award, park Managers Michael McDonald and Suzanne Holland praised Bob’s work at Hidden Oaks and enumerated many of his volunteer accomplishments. They wrote, “Bob demonstrates the responsible use and protection of natural resources through his conservation efforts. In addition to routine upkeep of existing trails, Bob alleviates erosion and stream bank deterioration, instructs and leads hundreds of seventh graders annually in hands-on trail stewardship activities, creates and enhances gardens, recruits and leads FMN volunteers for onsite projects, donates hundreds of dollars of native ferns and birdseed and, in doing so, effectively serves as a FCPA ambassador.”

Bob Dinse At Hidden Oaks Nature Center

Bob has been serving at HONC for approximately 11 years. He previously received an Elly Doyle Park Service award in 2014; and a Presidential Silver Service Award presented by AmeriCorps in large part for his over 350 hours of service and for preparation of Hidden Oak’s 50th anniversary in 2019.

After speaking with Bob it is readily apparent that his real reward is in caring for Hidden Oaks. His primary FMN service hours are at Hidden Oaks but he does contribute at other parks as well. At Hidden Oaks he not only maintains the trails, native plant gardens, and maintains stream crossings he is also the first friendly face most morning visitors see.

I recently met with Bob at HONC and he graciously took time from his day to give me an overview of his park maintenance responsibilities. His weekly plan for taking care of the park starts out at 6:00 in the morning to walk and clear, as required, over 2 miles of trails of fallen trees and hazardous debris to ensure trail user safety. He then executes his maintenance plan that is mercurial at best based on changing priorities. He always breaks around mid-day to meet with park staff and present his boots-on-the-ground report. I find it impressive that Bob is able to apply a variety of learned and innovative skills at the park. He has planted native plant gardens, created signage for trails, was instrumental in building fair-weather crossings on stream trails to repair flood damage, and enhanced the recently added ADA (American Disabilities Act) accessible path with ferns gardens and by repurposing deadfall logs as boundaries for the gardens and trail.

In addition to maintenance activities, Bob takes time to interact in community outreach. At various times, he leads interpretive programs for school groups, helps with Eagle Scout programs, and even collaborates with neighbor parks. For example, he recently cut, painted, and installed sixteen sign posts to expand an Eagle Scout interpretive trail project identifying animal tracks. Over time, he has built several wood duck nesting boxes in or near Holmes Run Stream as it flows into Roundtree Park.

Bob certainly leads and serves by example and should be congratulated for his 2020 Elly Doyle Award. Given his spirit of volunteerism it is not unexpected that for holidays he and his wife regularly lead Sierra Club volunteer mission trips overseas. In establishing the Sierra Club, John Muir wrote that he wanted to, “Explore, enjoy, and render assessable the mountains of the Pacific Coast …”. Please join FMN in thanking Bob for continuing Muir’s mission of conservation as he “renders accessible” the trails and grounds of Hidden Oaks.

Links:

Hidden Oaks nature Center is actively looking for immediate and long-term help with nature programs. If you are able to help please contact Kim Young, kim.young@fairfaxcounty.gov

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