The Winkler Preserve remains a hidden gem tucked within Alexandria City’s Mark Center area. Winkler, previously a private conservation area which had a long history of hosting summer camps and other programs for children, was donated to the NOVA Parks system in October 2022. This will be the park system’s first opportunity to offer summer day camps, similar to those offered at its Hemlock and Meadowlark Park locations. Superintendent of park operations, Blythe Russian says, “the biggest selling point of our summer camps is the quality. We are able to provide high quality specialty programming due to our dedicated and knowledgeable staffing, counselor to camper ratio, beautiful and unique facilities, and the small camp size. This lends itself well to our day campers having unique and meaningful experiences."
Children will have the option of half or full day camps at a counselor to camper ratio of one to nine. There is no overnight option, however, children will learn camping skills for possible use at other overnight camping locations within the system. Whether one becomes an overnight camper or not, learning and practicing orienteering and survival skills, including making friction fires, has basic life utility for emergencies.
NOVA Park’s program team has put together two groups of activities..: Wiggle Worm and Outdoor Explorers. The first, for first and second graders, seeks to focus on using one’s senses to explore the natural world and learn how wildlife uses senses to survive and thrive. Campers learn to heighten hearing skills to find song birds, identify natural objects through touch alone, and spot camouflaged critters. Outdoor explorers, for third through fifth graders, will seek out basic natural elements of the park, art in nature, the local ecology, and learn new outdoor skills. Both programs are likely to create appreciation of nature and the outdoors that will influence a lifetime.The Winkler Botanical Preserve also offers monthly family programs, including scouts merit badge programs, specialty naturalist, and arts and crafts programs. A calendar of events is available at https://www.novaparks.com/parks/winkler-botanical-preserve/events. A volunteer program is in progress of being established for those you would like to assist with work in the park.