The family-owned Winkler Botanical Preserve joins the extensive list of parks and gardens operated by NoVA Parks.
By Jon Simkins
The reins of a long-standing family-owned conservation area in Alexandria’s West End have been officially handed over to the Northern Virginia Parks Authority to support plant and wildlife conservation and educational programs for local children.
Ownership of the 44.6-acre Winkler Botanical Preserve, a natural oasis complete with streams, pond, waterfall and hiking trails, was transferred to NOVA Parks during a September 15 ceremony that marked the end of a 43-year Winkler family operation signaled . Since its inception in 1979, the reservation at 5400 Roanoke Ave. public access and education for visitors while protecting native species that call the region home.
“A generation of Alexandrian youth, including my two children, have enjoyed the great 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 reserve and the renewed program NOVA Parks will be bringing to the site, a new generation will be enriched in this beautiful place. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of the Winkler organization in ensuring the accessibility of this natural space for generations to come.”
Founded 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 reserve has offered generations of locals and visitors alike a tranquil respite from urban sprawl city that continues to expand around them.
The decision to transfer ownership is not only intended to ensure the mission continues, but also to signal the launch of new environmental education programs for schools and the revitalization of a once-popular collection of summer camps, the release said. NOVA Parks currently manages operations at the Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington and the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, among many other parks.
Included in the transfer of ownership, the family’s Winkler organization is providing the park system with $3 million in equipment to support educational programs and facility improvements, and $1 million for capital needs, according to a press release. Another $1 million will be donated by the family to the City of Alexandria to facilitate community engagement and provide learning resources.
The family organization is also donating a $100,000 grant to ALIVE!, an organization that helps end poverty and hunger in 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 in our heavily urbanized Northern Virginia,” said Cate Wyatt, Chair of NOVA Parks. “NOVA Parks is honored to be the new caretakers of the Winkler Botanical Preserve and to express our eternal gratitude on behalf of future generations of the Winkler family.”
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