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Issue 174

Friday, July 28, 2023

Prince William County

Dear Neighbors,

The subject line of this week’s Wheeler Report may seem a bit odd. It refers to the mileage on my car which just rolled over to 25,000 miles. Not a big event in itself, unless you know I purchased that car (an EV) in July of 2022. The vast majority of those 25,000 miles happened driving around northern Virginia, principally in Prince William County. 

Prince William County, spanning 350 square miles, comprises a diverse array of locations. This diversity is a major strength, as each district within the county also showcases its own unique characteristics and features. We have the green of Bull Run Mountain in the Gainesville District contrasted with the large communities of Piedmont and Dominion Valley. In Brentsville, we have the Linton Hall corridor with its many neighborhoods and bustling Promenade Shopping, adjacent to a bucolic rural area.

In Coles, we have vibrant diversity in parts of Manassas that run into the quiet Lake Jackson district and residences along 234 down to Independent Hill. In Neabsco, we have Dale City's Farmers Market and Waterworks, the largest splash pad in Northern Virginia, alongside a technology centric NVCC. The Occoquan district has its town of course, the river waterfront, Lake Ridge, and wonderful places to eat like the Bistro L'hermitage. 

The Woodbridge District has its Route 1 corridor, exceptional developments like Belmont Bay and jewels like Leesylvania State Park. And finally, we have the Potomac District encompassing historic Dumfries, Potomac Shores with its new VRE station coming and wonderful neighborhoods like Montclair. All within reach of Prince William Forest state park and nearby Quantico. 

The point of all this is that it can be easy to miss the true breadth of Prince William County. The day trekkers of Prince William Forest may not cross paths with the hikers of Bull Run Mountain and the culinary experts in Gainesville may be unaware of the eateries in Occoquan and Woodbridge.

I am grateful for the opportunity to experience everything and truly appreciate the numerous aspects that make our County great. It's undeniably remarkable.

In Service,

Chair Ann Wheeler

August Recess

As in prior years, during August recess, The Wheeler Report will be bi-weekly. You will receive an issue August 11, August 25, and September 8, which will include the BOCS September 12 meeting information.

Chair's Calendar

Sustainability Plan Update

Monday, July 24, Chair Wheeler met with Giulia Manno, Officer of the PWC Office of Sustainability, on the progress of the Community Energy and Sustainability Master Plan (County News issue 156). The plan is currently being drafted with input from County staff, the Sustainability Commission, and stakeholders throughout the County. A draft of the plan is expected to be available for public input in early August.

Clergy Leaders Meeting

Wednesday, July 26, Chair Wheeler met with Clergy Leaders from the Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE, Chair's Calendar issue 172). Topics discussed included the:

About the ADU

In July, 2021, the BOCS approved a resolution to create the ADU, to ensure that the County remains a place where all individuals have a broad range of affordable, accessible, and desirable housing choices. This was then incorporated into the Housing Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan update adopted in December 2022.


August Recess

The BOCS is in August recess. The first BOCS meeting after recess will be Tuesday, September 12, at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm.

Links to the agenda and to register to participate in Public Comment Time remotely will be shared in issue prior to the meeting.

At the Tuesday, July 25, Meeting the BOCS

Proclaimed, affirmed, and recognized the 33rd African-American Heritage Festival and encouraged all residents to join in honoring and celebrating the Manassas African American Heritage Festival on August 5. 

The Manassas African-American Heritage Festival will be Saturday, August 5, from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm at Metz Middle School. The family-friendly festival has grown to include more than 125 exhibitors, including arts and crafts dealers, retailers of African wares, youth groups, colleges and school exhibits, health fair, business and job expos, Classic Car Show, and great food vendors. Lawn chairs are welcome. Admission is free.

Curtis Porter, Chair of the PWC Human Rights Commission accepted the proclamation.

History of the Festival

The Manassas African-American Heritage Festival was started in August 1990 in celebration of the vast contributions made by African Americans to our County’s history and identity. The festival grew out of the work of the VOICE Newspaper, a local newspaper dedicated to informing the African American Community. This year, its theme is in line with the 2023 Black History Month theme, Black Resistance, and takes a look at how African Americans have fought repression from late August 1619, when 20 - 30 enslaved Africans landed at Point Comfort, today's Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Virginia.

County News

Police Department Annual Event

The PWC Police Department is participating in National Night Out (County News issue 125) celebration this year on Tuesday, August 1, starting at 5:00 pm. During the annual event, County residents are encouraged to lock their doors, turn on outdoor lights, and spend the evening outside with their neighbors as a symbol that they care about their neighborhoods.

National Night Out creates healthy neighborhoods block by block by helping neighbors know one another, celebrate community, and take steps to make neighborhoods safer for all residents. Additionally, it helps build positive relationships between the community and their Police Department. Neighborhood Watch programs to help to create a neighborhood network to prevent crime and enhance the quality of life.

Start Planning Now

It may not feel like it, but Fall is just around the corner and the PWC Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism has a new slate of educational programs, heart pumping group fitness classes, events, and fun activities for you and your family to enjoy. You can get all the details in the Fall 2023 Leisure online magazine, now available for preview. Registration opens Tuesday, August 1. For full details and help registering for programs, download the Desktop or Mobile How-to-Register Guides.

Invasive Plant Concern

The Plant Nova Natives/Plant NovaTrees is asking for your help in ridding our area of the invasive Ailanthus altissima, commonly called Tree-of-Heaven, and the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF, County News issue 125) that uses it as a larval host. Both are threats to our native flora and fauna.

Ailanthus, imported from China in the late 1700s and 1800s, can now be seen everywhere along our highways and byways. Its large, dramatic clusters of seeds look like giant flowers. It spreads aggressively, grows to maturity rapidly with a very long taproot, and has a terrible odor. It poisons the ground around it with chemicals and crowds out native oaks, beeches, hickories, and maples. It also fails to provide the critical food resources that native insects and other animals need to live and reproduce in a fully functioning, healthy ecosystem.

Tree-of-Heaven is the preferred food source for the SLF, a destructive pest that is spreading in Northern Virginia and a major threat to some of Virginia’s agricultural areas, especially our vineyards, peach orchards, hops, and native tree species like oaks and maples. You can learn more about the SLF and how to mitigate it in our area from the PWC Public Works and Virginia Cooperative Extension.

How can we stop the spread of this invasive plant?

The first thing, of course, is not to purchase it in the first place! So be sure to learn how to identify it. You can become familiar with the iNaturalist app on your smartphone or use other online resources to name the plant. The second is to remove the tree if it is growing on your land. Pesky Ailanthus, however, thrives when simply cut down, so strategies must be used to kill the root system right away, preferably before cutting it. Blue Ridge PRISM has excellent fact sheets with details about herbicide use for this and other invasive species. 

Request a Mason Speaker for Your Next Event

Need an expert to deliver a presentation to your community organization or business? Check out Mason Speakers, a speaking bureau featuring nearly 100 George Mason University professors, researchers, and administrators. Mason Speakers provides free lectures and guest presentations to community organizations and businesses. You can search the database of speakers by keyword, speaker, or topic category. Learn more about Mason Speakers here.

Car Free Day 2023 will begin taking pledges on Tuesday, August 1. Everyone who takes the free pledge will be entered into a free raffle for a chance to win prizes. In the Washington, DC metropolitan area, Car Free Day 2023 will be celebrated on Friday, September 22.

Car Free Day is a worldwide event that encourages greener methods of travel by getting around other than driving alone by car. Commuter Connections hosts Car Free Day in the Washington, DC region to bring awareness to the benefits of travel options such as transit, bicycling, walking, and telework for people who can. Carpooling and vanpooling count too! These are called “car-lite” since they are both lighter on the wallet and the environment than driving alone in a car.

County Kudos

Excellence in Education

The Virginia Board of Education awarded King Elementary School the Highest Achievement Award under the Board’s Exemplar School Recognition Program. For the 2022-2023 award year, 48 Virginia schools met the criteria. The Board implemented this recognition program for schools in 2019. It was established to recognize schools that exceed requirements created by the Board or show continuous academic improvement.

The Board also awarded four elementary schools, Chris Yung, Featherstone, Montclair, and Vaughan, the Continuous Improvement Award. For the 2022-2023 school year, 93 Virginia schools were recognized for this award.

A full list of the schools and school divisions which received these awards for the 2022-2023 school year can be found here.

To receive the Board of Education’s Highest Achievement Award, the school must be accredited and meet all the following criteria:

  • The school meets state benchmark in reading, math, and science (75% for reading and 70% for math and science) based on the current year pass rate on state assessments (not including growth or English learner progress);
  • All student groups within the school meet state benchmarks in reading and math (75% for reading and 70% for math) based on the current year pass rate on state assessments (not including growth or English learner progress), and
  • For schools with two student groups, there is no more than five percentage points between the lowest performing group and all other students in the school; or
  • For schools with three or more student groups, there is no more than 10 percentage points between the lowest performing group and all other students in the school.

County Happenings

Food, Fun, and a Great Cause

The PWC Police Department, in partnership with the Special Olympics and Texas Roadhouse at Potomac Mills, are partnering for a Tip-a-Cop fundraiser Monday August 7. Texas Roadhouse will donate 100% of their tips to Special Olympics! Officers will be there from 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm. There will be plenty of line dancing and great food to go around! Call ahead for seating at 571-554-8050.

To-go Orders

You can also donate 10% of your check on all to-go orders. If you place your order online, when you come to pick it up just let the To-go staff know that you want to donate part of your total to Special Olympics.

Veteran and Military Spouse Hiring Event

Thursday, August 11, at 6:00 pm, Amazon is hosting a recruitment event for military veterans, transitioning service members, and their spouses at the 2 Silos in Brentsville. If you want to learn more about the nation’s second largest employer, register to attend on here. Amazon representatives from across the country will be there looking for engineers, developers, shoppers, and delivery experts, with an added Northern Virginia emphasis on veterans and spouses with security clearances. Learn more about Amazon and veteran opportunities in the video below.

Commitment to Veterans and their Families

In July 2021, Amazon made a commitment to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2024. In addition to in-person recruitment events, it has a robust military program, including the technical apprenticeship program geared toward veterans and a skill-building bridge program for those members of the military preparing for transition.  

A Quacking Good Time

Sunday, August 13, at 12:00 pm, the Town of Occoquan is hosting its 15th Annual Duck Splash. Watch hundreds of rubber ducks drop from the Route 123 bridge on the Occoquan River and "race" to the finish line. "Adopt" a numbered rubber duck (or ducks!) for $5 each and win anywhere from $20 to $500 if it finishes in the top 10. Net proceeds from the event will benefit Patriots for Disabled Divers, which uses scuba as a therapeutic tool for wounded warriors. Ducks will be available the day of the event, but can sell out, so get yours in advance online here.

Helpful PWC Links

Ann B. Wheeler was elected Chair At-Large of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors during the 2019 General Election and assumed office on January 1, 2020. Prince William County is located 25 miles south of Washington, D.C., and is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s second-most populous county with approximately 482,000 residents. 
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