Award Nomination

The Friends of Aurora Highlands is honored to have been nominated by an Aurora Highlands resident for the Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award.

Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,

committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead


Mission & support of programs, natural resources and public open spaces

Preserving and growing parkland and green spaces. Balancing park use for all ages and uses. Working together to give a stronger voice for our parks in Aurora Highlands and the County.

Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks (FoAHP) is a modern grass roots organization whose core mission is preserving and expanding park and natural spaces for all ages and uses by ensuring inclusivity through better processes and transparency.

Since organizing in August of 2015, FoAHP has served as major contributor to the education and advocacy of community and county-wide public spaces, especially multi-use, open and natural park spaces. The FoAHP’s motto is “parks for all ages and all uses.” While there are many organized sport advocacy groups, there are fewer groups that help provide a voice for the numerous park-goers who enjoy their natural parkland, recreate through individual recreation or unaffiliated with groups or for the need for protection of our natural resources and ecological benefit. FoAHP is helping to fill that void and provide that voice.

Public spaces are for the public and by the public. FoAHP has spent many hundreds of hours working for improved civic engagement and transparency with the County by focusing on better processes, transparency of data, and advocating for creative solutions for the growing and diverse needs of Arlington’s population.

Foahp’s work

FoAHP collaborates and shares advice with many local and national organizations to achieve community and county-wide objectives such as:

  • The Trust for Public Land
  • 11th St Park Bridge project
  • Arlington’s Park and Recreation Commission
  • Environment and Energy Conservation Commission
  • Arlington Parks Coalition

FoAHP’s collaboration with the community:

    • FoAHP supports the Aurora Highlands Civic Association’s Virginia Highlands Park proposal
    • Community park activities
    • Petition for Virginia Highlands Park
    • Addition of an Aurora Highlands pocket park

Participation in County processes:

  • POPS, Update to the Public Spaces Master Plan
  • Neighborhood Conservation project: Nelly Custis redesign and engagement
  • Site Place Review Committee
  • Engage Arlington
  • Working with commissions for master park planning, independent facilitators and community park spaces

How FoAHP is making a difference: Details of the nominee’s role

Chair Kari Klaus, co-Chair Stacy Meyer and the many actively engaged community members have worked extensively to improve 5 major areas; Engagement, representation, transparency and accountability, smart decisions and sustainability.


Through education and advocacy, FoAHP engages residents, county staff and elected officials on many platforms; website, social media, newsletters, meetings & processes. Further, FoAHP has been a strong advocate for the use of neutral facilitators to conduct engagement and outreach in county projects. This concept, vetted with research by FoAHP of regional and national projects, has support by many County residents, is listed in the Engage Arlington draft and is one of the adopted FoAHP recommendations that the Park and Recreation Commission sent to the County Board in December 2017. Examples include the Arlington County Civic Federation award for Outstanding Engagement and Community Outreach,  FoAHP’s ideas for improved engagement seen in the May & June FoAHP newsletter, and support for events such as PARK(ing) day and Fun in our parks: Fort Building.


Providing a voice for public space needs, including individual and family recreation, socialization, community-building, and more. Examples include Virginia Highlands Park Rebalancing Proposal, Petition to open up Virginia Highlands Park, POPS and Met Park SPRC alerts and participation, and 4MRV visioning workshop.


A core effort of FoAHP is to improve transparency in county process and projects and accountability for spending, planning and processes for our public spaces. Examples include process issues with Nelly Custis park and social media posts about spending and use in our parks.

Smart decisions

Using data to support advocacy, FoAHP researches park trends, demographics, development plans, proposals and fact-finding documents. Examples include collaboration and publication of the County Board Candidates Park Questionnaire, Using other parks for inspiration and Arlington Way for Successful Park Design, Public Spaces Master Plan survey data and analysis, Vornado & density, and the Shirlington Dog Park alert.


Parks are the foundation for environmental integrity and wildlife habitat. FoAHP promotes a balance of natural parkland to compliment the abundant recreational opportunities already

offered in the county. An important part of the FoAHP’s mission is the preservation and expansion of our natural parkland (sustainability) and improving environmental conditions in our parks, including stormwater run-off and tree canopy. Support for increased parkland acquisition budget, Pocket park in Aurora Highlands (education, alert & advocacy), Runoff and soil erosion at Nelly Custis, and Donaldson Run alert.

Accomplishments & Details of where fohap’s contributions haVE benefited Arlington’s programs, natural resources & public open spaces

As an education and advocacy based organization, FoAHP has achieved great success in spreading the word and has made a real difference in a number of park projects.

Education & Outreach: The organization has wide support throughout Arlington with over 100 active participants and supporters, over 200 social media followers and has distributed 45 electronic newsletters since August 2015 with an all-time high readership of 756 persons in January of 2017.

Nelly Custis Park:

FoAHP members’ direct involvement ensured the preservation of natural and multi-use community parkland in Nelly Custis Park, along with a more transparent and inclusive community process. Aug 2015 Update and Call for Participation; Mar 2016 Update; Jan 2017 Nelly Custis: Positive Outlook for Our Parks & Civic Engagement; Nov 2017 We saved green park space at Nelly Custis Park!

Pocket Park Acquisition:

Community members initiated the feasibility for a new Aurora Highlands pocket park at Ives & 20th St S, supported by the Aurora Highlands Civic Association to help with overcrowding at other pocket parks and to preserve an undeveloped lot as natural open space. Newsletter alert for pocket park


Virginia Highlands Park:  

Jointly FoAHP members & Aurora Highlands Civic Association successfully advocated to pause a CIP maintenance project which would have incorrectly enshrined underused softball fields in place of much needed community parkland. FoAHP & AHCA continue to work to correct the imbalances of the primarily restricted & organized recreational facilities in Virginia Highlands Park back to community and public uses. Softball field fences were partially removed at the end of 2017 allowing additional community access. Aug 2015 VHP CIP, Feb 2016 Support for AHCA proposal, Mar 2016 AHCA support vote, July 2016 Engagement prior to CIP, Jun 2017 Engagement Process, VHP fence removal


Awards and recognition

Arlington County Civic Federation

Awarded the Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks “Outstanding Civic Engagement and Community Service” in April 2017. 

“The Friends channeled their concerns about the Nelly Custis Park planning process into activism. They researched and made available information relevant to parks, including demographics, density, population, distribution of playground equipment, budgets and needs for services in public spaces. Based on that research, the Friends developed an independent Virginia Highlands Parks proposal to address community concerns over loss of green space…The Friends group continues to be a strong and active voice for Arlington parks and open green space. They publish a newsletter about park-related issues and support park advocates in Aurora Highlands and other parts of Arlington County.” Full details on the full Civic Federation statement and award.

Arlington Magazine June 26, 2017 by Kim O’Connell  

“We realized we really need to be actively engaged in how our prime and limited park real estate is used, because otherwise we lose it,” the group said in a written statement. “We believe there is a fundamental lack of appreciation for the intrinsic value of natural parkland and open space.” Read the full statement and article.

FoAHP public resources:, Newsletters, Facebook