Nature reserve added to regional park properties

On September 15, officials from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks) and the Winkler Botanical Preserve held a ceremony marking the incorporation of the 44.6-acre nature preserve in Alexandria’s West End into the system regional parks.

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 educational programs on the reserve and integrate new improvements. Additionally, the Winkler organization is offering the Alexandria City Government $1 million to advance community engagement and learning resources.

In partnership with the municipal government, new environmental education programs will be developed for school groups, and once-popular summer camps will return to the site.

“A generation of young people from Alexandria, including my two children, have enjoyed the outdoors at Winkler Botanical Preserve,” said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. “We are deeply grateful for the generosity of the Winkler Organization in ensuring the accessibility of this natural space for generations to come.”

The Winkler Botanical Reserve – which includes streams, a pond, a waterfall, and trails – was established in 1979 to protect natural space in the rapidly urbanizing Alexandria. The reserve, located at 5400 Roanoke Ave., was created by Catherine Winkler Herman, a passionate philanthropist and 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 reserves for more than 25 years before his retirement. The log reserve’s distinctive headquarters, Catherine’s Lodge, has long served as the center for the environmental education programs Ms. Thomas designed and oversaw.

“The enormity of this gift cannot be overstated. The vision of Catherine Winkler Herman and the genius of Tori Winkler have created an unprecedented botanical oasis within our highly urbanized Northern Virginia,” said Cate Magennis Wyatt, President of the regional park authority.

Founded in 1959, NOVA Parks, with its newest addition, now operates 35 parks with 12,380 acres of parkland.

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