WASHINGTON — “Lots of history, lots of nature.”
That's how Paul Gilbert, the Executive Director of NOVA Parks sums up the 34 regional parks his organization maintains in a nutshell.
“We were founded to acquire large chunks of land, particularly along major waterways by some of the leading environmentalists of that day," explains Gilbert. "And that has been in our DNA ever since.”
NOVA Parks is working hard to protect the environment while at the same time the environment is working hard to protect us.
“Trees are actually growing faster today than they were 50 or 100 years ago. And it's just because there's more carbon in the air," says Gilbert. "And the trees are doing all they can through photosynthesis to draw the carbon out of the air and store it in the tree and the tree then grows.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are rising and as a result our climate is changing. In fact, global average carbon dioxide set a new record high in 2021.
So when it comes to trees...the more the merrier.
“Every tree you look at is a carbon storage unit. And it is drawing carbon out of the air, it's in there the air filters of our region," Gilbert explained. "And they are storing it long-term. And so it is one of the best things we can do is to add more vegetation, more trees, particularly because they hold a lot of carbon.”
Trees also produce oxygen that we need to breathe and reduce stormwater runoff - which helps with erosion and pollution in our waterways. It can also lessen the effects of flooding. Not to mention many wildlife species depend on trees for habitat. All of which is part of why NOVA Parks has committed to planting 50,000 trees by 2027 as part of their newly released strategic plan. But that's not all.
“We're going to be investing in more green technology like the solar panels you see behind me here," points out Gilbert. "EVS charging stations, habitat restoration, it's just a very comprehensive look on how we improve our environment. And that will then help us with climate change.”
This is really important to the parks system because they've been adapting to climate change for years.
From controlling invasive species that Gilbert says originate in other parts of the world, "And they tend to choke out the native species that actually add to the habitat value, the things that, that all the other creatures in our environment need, whether it's food, shelter, all those things really come from native plants.”
And mitigating stormwater runoff why redoing critical infrastructure, “We have a number of new parking lots that have pervious pavement and swales that are designed to hold the water and treat it before it eventually runs off-site.”
NOVA Parks is paving the way in protecting our environment and preserving nature so that we, and future generations, can enjoy the great outdoors.
There is so much more to NOVA Parks than meets the eye….they facilitate a laundry list of outdoor activities. From hiking and camping to fishing or golfing…you can even get married at the parks! To learn more just visit their website.