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What's Happening Around Great Falls

GFCA President's Notes  The Citizens Association was founded 55 years ago to preserve the semi-rural nature of Great Falls and provide local residents with a voice to discuss issues with local officials.  Much has changed here since 1968, but this little corner of Fairfax County has retained its physical distinction of low density, abundant green spaces, and wildlife, winding two-lane country roads, and even some landscapes with horses.

In the estimation of many residents, those elements contribute significantly to the notion of what semi-rural means in Great Falls.  Another one that has been taken for granted over the decades is dark skies in our community.  Over the years, GFCA has worked with county officials to preserve some of that special aspect of Great Falls.  There are purposely few streetlights on the roads here, where safety is not compromised, and we have been successful in gaining the cooperation of developers in some locations to positively impact the illumination of commercial signs to to comport with the character of the community.

Fairfax County recognized the value of our unique dark skies 24 years ago when it acquired land from the Federal Government off Springvale Road and then developed a Conceptual Development Plan in 2000 for an observatory.  With the County's efforts and the early contributions of talent and resources by Great Falls residents, Observatory Park at Turner Farm Park on Springvale Road was created, the only county observatory. 

Fairfax County is now engaged in developing an ordinance that would provide some guidelines for residences within a half mile radius of Turner Farm’s observatory.  GFCA has held numerous public meetings on this proposed ordinance and there are both supporters and opponents.  Comments during this process have led county officials to substantially modify their original proposals; the GFCA board has not taken an official position at this time.

As a Great Falls resident, what do you think about ensuring we retain dark skies here in the face of rising illumination on some residential properties?  Take a look at the revised staff summary published by Fairfax County and let Supervisor John Foust and Chairman McKay know your thoughts on both our general dark skies and the specific proposed ordinance.  Now is a good time to speak up.

Bill Canis

Free Spring Clinics on
Cultivating Native Plants

Dr. Meghan M. McGinty, a botanist, ecologist and Environment and Parks Committee member, will present a series of free clinics on creating a Homegrown National Park in your own backyard.  Starting in late March and continuing through April, join Dr. McGinty to learn more about helping our planet locally.

March 30 — Replace your lawn with cardboard mulching and native ground coverings

April 13 — High wildlife-value trees and shrubs to plant

April 20 — Habitat container gardens perfect for kids to make and enjoy

April 27 — Make more of what you already have in your garden by propagating them

Register at:

Please include your name and dates you would like to attend.  A confirmation with the Great Falls location of the clinics will be provided on registration.


Our goal is to preserve the semi-rural character of our community while addressing practical concerns like traffic, zoning, retail, schools, parks and the environment where problems arise and solutions must be found. 

Since Great Falls is not an incorporated municipality like the Town of Vienna, or City of Falls Church, we lack a town/city government to represent our local interests.  The GFCA acts in an unofficial capacity to represent the voices of the citizens of Great Falls on these matters, and works with county, state, and national government to get things done.  On Great Falls issues, no other organization has GFCA’s influence with elected leaders at the County and State level, or is as respected by them.

Our charter calls for GFCA to "serve as a community organization to promote all aspects of community interest accruing to a common good and, in general, to preserve the historic, low density, semi-rural character of Great Falls and its natural resources."

Let’s Talk Trash: Reducing
Litter on Great Falls’ Roadways

Great Falls is an area with much natural beauty; however, the growing trash on local roadways distracts from it.  On February 6, 2023, the Environment and Parks Committee asked resident Sanford (Sandy) Friedenthal to describe his cleanup efforts and present strategies for both trash removal and prevention.

Sandy showed the trash that he had picked up on a 4-mile stretch of Springvale Road, from Beach Mill Road to Route 7, over a two-week period this winter, as shown in the photo above.  Prior to January 20 this area had been cleared, so this was new trash totaling approximately 46 beer cans, 18 glass bottles, 27 plastic and paper cups, and hundreds of pieces of paper, plastic, Styrofoam, etc.

Sandy noted that there are similar issues with trash accumulation on all of our roads, including Georgetown Pike and Seneca, Utterback Store, Walker, Beach Mill, Arnon Chapel, River Bend and Leigh Mill Roads.

As Georgetown Pike is a special case due to its high volume of traffic and its length, Winnie Frost, who co-chairs the Environment and Parks Committee along with Chris Rich, recently contacted VDOT and requested that trash be picked up along Georgetown Pike between River Bend and Seneca Roads.  VDOT addressed the issue within 10 days of her request.

Residents who observe significant litter along a local road that needs to be cleaned up, or would like to report another road problem, should call 800-367-7623 or use the myVDOT website.

New Crosswalk Considered
Between Library and Shopping Center
On November 1, 2022, the Board of Supervisors announced plans to release funding for a number of small pedestrian/sidewalk projects across the county.  These are “quick fix” micro-projects where utilities do not need to be relocated or land/easements acquired.

In last month’s newsletter we announced that the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will fund a pedestrian crossing and refuge on Georgetown Pike between the Great Falls Library and the Great Falls shopping center.  In February, GFCA’s Transportation Committee representatives met with Lauren Delmare and Dan Stevens of FCDOT’s Active Transportation Program to discuss the plan for the pedestrian crossing.  As illustrated in the “concept sketch” above, a crosswalk would be placed on Georgetown Pike close to the driveway entrance to Great Falls Library, about 500’ east of the Walker Road/Georgetown Pike intersection.  Pedestrian-activated electronic signs (rectangular flashing beacons) are being considered, and a raised median would provide a “refuge” for pedestrians in the center of Georgetown Pike.  The combination of these elements would likely help to lower traffic speed in that area.

FCDOT estimates that the crosswalk will be completed in 18 to 24 months.  During that time, GFCA will work closely with FCDOT on the details of the crosswalk design.

According to a spokesperson from Supervisor Foust’s office, the county expects to allocate an additional $25 million in county funds for larger pedestrian projects.  With Supervisor Foust’s help, GFCA has requested funding for a project to complete the pedestrian crossings at the Georgetown Pike/Walker Road/Georgetown Pike intersection.  This is a major project and a top transportation priority for our community.  Fairfax County is expected to announce funding awards in March 2023.

Watch GFCA
uTube Channel Videos Here:

EP Committee Presentation on Fairfax County's recycling Program

Town Hall re: Proposed Dark Sky Preserve at Turner Farm Park Observatory
EP Committee Presentation featuring Tips on Lawn Care from Master Gardener Tony Makara
Town Hall re: Towlston Rd./Rte. 7 Intersection -

Town Hall re: Milestone Towers proposed Monopole -

Town Hall re: Springvale Rd. Bridge Replacement -

Deer Management Presentation -

Native Plants Presentation -

Outdoor Lighting Controls Proposed Around Turner Farm Park Observatory  GFCA has historically promoted the community’s dark skies and Fairfax County’s Observatory Park at Turner Farm Park on Springvale Road.  In 2015, GFCA held a well-attended educational townhall at the library to bring new attention to the community’s longstanding policy of encouraging dark skies for astronomy purposes, especially at Turner Farm where the Fairfax County Park Authority was making a major investment in a new roll-top astronomy building.  That session encouraged a county review of the current ordinance and updating where necessary.  Also suggested was an examination of current lighting in Great Falls with an eye to reducing growing light pollution.

Since 2020, GFCA has supported county efforts to promote dark skies based on a provision of the Virginia Code that grants authority to localities to implement an ordinance to regulate outdoor lighting within an area one-half mile around planetariums, astronomical observatories, and meteorological laboratories.  GFCA established a joint-committee approach involving both the Land Use & Zoning and Environment and Parks Committees to monitor the process and engage with residents of the community and GFCA members.  This effort has included two GFCA Town Halls — in March and September 2022 — and multiple committee meetings.  It also included a Fairfax County-hosted virtual meeting on February 27 as part of their community engagement process.  That meeting afforded commenters to present their views directly to the county staff, the Dranesville Supervisor, and Planning Commissioner. 

The proposed amendment to the ordinance continues to generate both support as well as staunch opposition from some residents within the proposed one-half mile radius of the observatory.  Concerns range from objections to the imposition of government controls over residential lighting and what several characterize as an example “government over-reach”.  Also, an anonymous flyer circulated in the communities near the observatory contained several inaccurate or misleading statements.

Outdoor lighting is governed under the provisions of Article 5 of the Zoning Ordinance.  Prior to adopting an amendment to the ordinance, the Board of Supervisors will authorize the advertisement of public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. 

GFCA’s joint committees continue to collect feedback from interested persons and have developed several suggestions for consideration by county staff who have solicited GFCA’s recommendations.  The county’s Revised Staff Summary and Draft Text may be viewed here

GFCA members are encouraged to express their views on two important considerations if they haven't done so already: 

  • Proposed plans to establish a Dark Sky Preserve at Observatory Park at Great Falls' Turner Farm.
  • Increasing light pollution and its effect on efforts to preserve dark skies in the Great Falls community. 

To submit your email comments click the active links below:
Dranesville Supervisor Foust
and Chairman Board of Supervisors

New Information Posted
on the GFCA Page
Concerning Climate Change

To Read More, go to the Green Toolbar at the top of this Page, Click on Resources and go to Great Falls Resources to See the Listings

The Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) is a non-profit, 501(c)4, organization based in Great Falls, Virginia, whose mission is to promote and protect the quality of life and the unique characteristics of the Great Falls community.  The GFCA is a volunteer-based organization that is open to all residents of Great Falls and the surrounding area.

The GFCA is known for its advocacy and community engagement activities, which include working with local government officials and other community organizations on issues related to land use, zoning, transportation, and environmental protection.  The organization also organizes events and programs to promote community engagement and connect residents with local resources and services. 

Some of the activities the GFCA is involved in include:

  • Zoning and land-use issues, like protecting the rural character of Great Falls from over development
  • Advocacy for traffic and transportation improvements
  • Promoting the protection of natural and historic resources in Great Falls
  • Organizing community events and programs, like educational seminars, social events, and volunteer opportunities
  • Provide information and resources to the community on issues of importance to Great Falls.

The GFCA is an active organization in Great Falls and plays a critical role in preserving the community's unique character and quality of life, through its advocacy and community engagement activities.

Great Falls Citizens Association            
PO Box 27  •  Great Falls, VA   •  2206

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