The reins of a longtime family-owned preserve in Alexandria’s west end have officially been turned over to the Northern Virginia Parks Authority in a move that aims to support plant and wildlife preservation and educational programs for local children.
Ownership of the 44.6-acre Winkler Botanical Preserve, a natural oasis replete with streams, a pond, a waterfall, and trails, was transferred to NOVA Parks during a September 15 ceremony that signaled the end of a 43-year operation by the Winkler family. Since its 1979 inception, the preserve, located at 5400 Roanoke Ave., has provided public access and education for visitors while protecting native species that call the region home.
“A generation of Alexandria youth, including both of my children, have enjoyed the outdoors at the Winkler Botanical Preserve,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said in a press release. “With the funds the city is receiving to help our school-age children go to the preserve and the renewed programming that NOVA Parks will bring to the site, a new generation will be enriched in this wonderful place. We are profoundly grateful for the generosity of the Winkler Organization to ensure the accessibility of this natural space for generations to come.”
Established by philanthropist and environmentalist Catherine Winkler Herman in honor of her late husband, real estate developer Mark Winkler, and designed by the couple’s daughter, Tori Winkler Thomas, the preserve has, for generations of locals and visitors alike, provided a quiet respite from the urban sprawl that continues to grow around it.
The decision to transfer ownership is expected to not only ensure that mission continues, but it will also signal the arrival of new environmental education programs for schools and the resurrection of a once-popular collection of summer camps, the release said. NOVA Parks currently manages operations at Arlington’s Potomac Overlook Regional Park and Vienna’s Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, among many other parks.
Included in the ownership change, the family’s Winkler Organization is providing the park system a $3 million operating endowment to support educational programs and facility improvements, as well as $1 million for capital needs, according to a release. An additional $1 million is being given by the family to the City of Alexandria to facilitate community engagement and allocate learning resources.
The family organization is also giving a $100,000 grant to ALIVE!, an organization that helps fight poverty and hunger among local families.
“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,” NOVA Parks Chair Cate Wyatt said. “NOVA Parks is honored to be the new stewards of the Winkler Botanical Preserve and on behalf of the generations to come, express our eternal gratitude to the Winkler family.”
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