- Two individuals and one community group receive annual Bill Thomas Award
- Honorees have led service projects, helped expand field use and promoted open space
- County Board honored this year’s award recipients on Tue., April 24
Two individuals and one community group were honored Tue., April 24, by the Arlington County Board for their passionate dedication and support of County parks programs, natural resources and public open spaces.
Joanne Hutton, John Foti and Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks each received the County’s annual Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award for 2017. The award pays tribute to lifelong parks volunteer Bill Thomas and serves to honor and encourage park volunteerism in the County.
“As Arlington works hard to balance its need for open space and protecting the natural world with its need to provide recreational playing fields for a growing, active population, it is only fitting that this year’s honorees for the Bill Thomas Award include Joanne Hutton, a master naturalist, Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks, who are such effective advocates for preserving parkland, and John Foti, who has been such a terrific volunteer and advocate for recreational fields,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “Joanne, John and Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks embody the best of Arlington civic engagement and love for our parks and recreational spaces.”
The Board honored this year’s recipients during its April 24 Recessed Meeting.
Natural resources volunteer Joanne Hutton
For more than a decade Joanne Hutton has worked to advance stewardship of natural resources throughout Arlington. She has assisted with bird counts and other plant and wildlife inventories and led numerous educational and training programs to help Arlingtonians of all ages develop environmental stewardship skills. She has been an active member of Arlington Regional Master Naturalists (ARMN) since 2009, working to attract, welcome, mentor and train new members and expand the community of active volunteers in Arlington. Joanne previously worked with the County’s Department of Parks and Recreation, where she oversaw the County’s Community Garden program and trained Master Gardeners.
Field-use advocate and volunteer John Foti
John Foti has been a tireless advocate and volunteer for recreational fields in Arlington. It began when John started volunteering to make his son’s T-ball fields playable again after inclement weather by raking and removing standing water—something County parks staff did not always have the bandwidth to do. Later, John helped establish a field adoption program, enlisting other volunteers to prep and maintain fields for play. Most recently, John helped identify funding sources for the installation of synthetic turf on the diamond field at Gunston Park, a move that will add more than 900 additional hours of playable time per year. John continues to advocate for increased field capacity, and, with Arlington’s population on the rise, he recognizes the need to expand on his previous accomplishments.
Civic engagement advocates Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks
Led by resident Kari Klaus and co-chaired by Stacy Meyer, Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks and its many actively engaged neighbors have put significant effort into civic engagement on issues related to parks planning, education and the ways in which land use is determined. The group’s social media pages as well as their widely circulated newsletters help keep the community up-to-date on Countywide park-related projects and issues. And group members actively encourage and organize park supporters to engage in public processes and make their voices heard.