Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

March 2017

Volunteers Get Hands-On History Experience in Virginia

By Dave Ramont

Some people are fascinated by digging up the past, in a most literal sense. And in Fairfax County, Va., anyone can join the corps of volunteers who work alongside historians and county archaeologists that comprise the Fairfax County Archaeological Research Team (CART). Volunteers can work in the lab researching and cataloging archaeological finds, or get their hands in the dirt working on archaeological digs in the field—all the while learning about their county's history.

Christopher Sperling is an archaeologist with the Park Authority, and Kayla Marciniszyn is an assistant lab director. They report that some volunteers like to work both inside and outside. "The lab has an increase of volunteers during the winter months, but if the weather is nice, a few of them will opt to be in the field. It gives them a chance to see the whole archaeological process."

Due to increased awareness, the volunteer program has enjoyed a surge in popularity lately, with most people discovering it by searching for volunteer opportunities on the county's website. According to Sperling and Marciniszyn, volunteers consist of students, retirees, and entry-level professionals. "We often work with high school and college student interns interested in or studying archaeology and/or anthropology, depending on the university program. A few of our staff members began working here as interns and were hired on as permanent staff," they added.

CART works at all types of sites, ranging from 19th century homesteads to Colonial sites such as Colchester, all the way back to sites created by hunter-gatherers that lived in the area more than 10,000 years ago. "Although we're in the Park Authority, we have a county-wide role and work throughout Fairfax. We work in support of park development projects, ensuring that it does not impact significant archaeological resources. We also conduct investigations as part of the park planning process to help preserve and interpret for the public. We've been called out to park and county projects that inadvertently discovered archaeological sites," said Sperling and Marciniszyn.

One example of this happened a few years ago near George Mason University, when utility and road work unearthed a corduroy road, which is a log road used commonly in the area during the Civil War. The CART team has also done extensive investigations at the Old Colchester Park and Preserve. The town of Colchester thrived from the mid-18th through early-19th centuries, and they've discovered several stone foundations and other features relating to the town's heyday. The team tells us that they also excavated a site recently outside the town. "We found a brick hearth and foundation, likely an 18th century plantation house, as well as evidence of a probable slave quarters. This site is considered highly significant on a national level."

Other finds include items such as clay tobacco pipes, glass from the late 17th century, door hinges and hand-wrought nails, an 18th century colonial padlock and pottery. A display at the entrance of their government center often highlights archaeological finds, and many of their parks feature site-specific displays.

Archaeology New Volunteer Orientation programs are offered for prospective volunteers. Those with experience are introduced to the department and their main projects, while beginners are taught basic archaeological methods.

Sperling and Marciniszyn and the CART team are committed to their role as stewards of history, adhering to strict conservation guidelines that require artifacts to be stabilized and stored in an appropriate manner. "Once we unearth the past, we are responsible for it, in perpetuity."

Information and updates on their work can be found at

Recent Rec Report Feature Stories

Park Hop Inspires Park Usage - March 2017

National Health Campaign Reaches 228,000 Youth in Three Years - March 2017

Outdoor REC Act Signed Into Law - February 2017

Happy 125th B-Day B-Ball! - February 2017

Study Shows Majority—Even Athletes—Are 'Overfat' - February 2017

Gym-Goers Like YMCA Best; Planet Fitness Winning Market Share - February 2017

Georgia State Park Celebrates Its Dark Sky Status - January 2017

Texas Tech Focuses on Functional Fitness - January 2017

Preventing Pool Closings - January 2017

Majority of U.S. Households Visit Attractions - January 2017

City of Henderson Awarded for Water Safety Programs - December 2016

Grant Brings Outdoor Fitness Area to Park - December 2016

Alliance Recommends Actions to Improve Kids' Activity Stats - December 2016

Retractable Enclosures Help YMCAs Cut Costs, Boost Membership - November 2016

Huge Project Seeks to Rebuild Monarch Habitats - November 2016

Report: Camping More Popular Than Ever - November 2016

ACSM Predicts 2017 Fitness Trends - November 2016

CDC: More Than One-Quarter of 50-Plus U.S. Adults Don't Exercise - October 2016

Park District Recognized for Collaboration Efforts - October 2016

Americans Support Increased Local Funding for Parks & Rec - October 2016

High School Sports Participation Up for 27th Consecutive Year - October 2016

National Park Service Celebrates 100 Years of Successful Partnerships - October 2016

Study Shows High Obesity Rates Among Student Athletes - September 2016

Forest Service Celebrates 100-Year-Old Campground - September 2016

Study Shows Artificial Turf Composition Influences Injury Prevention - September 2016

Study Shows Artificial Turf Composition Influences Injury Prevention - August 2016

Council Announces Release of Second Edition of Model Aquatic Health Code - August 2016

Study Finds Seniors, Women Less Likely to Use Parks - August 2016

Level Up Your Park With Pokémon Go - August 2016

Research Shows Light Pollution's Impact on Night Sky - July 2016

Trail-Oriented Development Eases Congestion, Encourages Activity - July 2016

Nonprofits Aim to Boost Inclusive Fitness Opportunities - July 2016

Research Shows Benefits of Nature for Older Adults - June 2016

Destination Play Comes to Draper, Utah - June 2016

New Report Breaks Down the Data on City Parks - June 2016

Virtual Reality, Immersion & Interaction Lead Amusement Park Trends in 2016 - June 2016

National Leaders Team Up to Promote Physical Activity Plan - May 2016

Growing Economic Confidence Means More Visitors for Attractions Industry - May 2016

SHAPE America Recognizes Just Dance School of the Year - May 2016

Surgeon General Visits Gregory Gym in Austin - May 2016

Are States Dropping the Ball on Keeping Kids Active? - April 2016

U.S. Masters Swimming Campaigns to Reduce Adult Drowning - April 2016

Grants for Urban Outdoor Recreation Available - April 2016

Physical Education Program Grant Competition Opens - April 2016

Nature Play Comes to Wildwood - March 2016

Miracle Swimming Opens First Pool Dedicated to Those With Water Fears - March 2016

Managing Concussion Risk: Communities Switch From Contact to Flag Football - March 2016

Gallup Study Looks at Long-Term Well-Being of Former Student Athletes - March 2016