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Where We Live: South Run, nestled next to nature

By Susan Straight,

South Run, a neighborhood of 532 homes developed by Hazel Peterson Cos. in the mid- to late 1980s, has a well-maintained network of walking and cycling trails that connect to Fairfax County’s 888-acre Burke Lake Park. The entire west side of the neighborhood abuts leafy green parkland, still living up to the slogan in its original marketing brochure: “a community distinguished by nature” located on “more than 500 acres of crisp, clean, countryside.”

Besides natural beauty, Burke Lake Park has a golf course, mini golf, a miniature train, a carousel and picnic pavilions. But its main feature is a 218-acre lake looped by a 4.7-mile trail that is ranked among the top 10 U.S. urban fitness trails by the American Hiking Society.

Many South Run residents walk or run together on the trails around the lake. “I walk my dog over there all the time,” said resident Jane Cys, who lives adjacent to the park and previously edited the community’s monthly newsletter, the South Run Letter.

South Run homes were built from 1986 to 1988 by at least six builders, according to Barb White Adkins, a real estate agent with Re/Max 100. Lot sizes range from about half an acre to an acre, and the 15 home styles include Colonials, ramblers, Georgians and Tudors, said White Adkins, who has also lived in the neighborhood for 20 years. The highest sale price in the area was $1.063 million, in 2005, she said. After the downturn, “we’re currently getting back into the $800,000s again,” she said, noting that “there are four homes listed for the mid-$800s.”

Trails link neighborhood sidewalks to the park trails as well as to other neighborhood streets. “What creates that neighborhood feel is the way it was designed: the neighborhood circle and the offshoots which connect to each other,” said White Adkins.

The sidewalk running along South Park Circle is 1.5 miles long. Robyn Trump, who moved to the neighborhood with her husband, Craig, in 1996, takes advantage of the loop for walking. “We wanted a neighborhood with sidewalks and lots of pretty trees,” she said. “We just sit on our front porch when the weather is nice. That’s the way we see a lot of our neighbors.”

Many of the streets do not have sidewalks, but there is relatively little traffic and so residents feel comfortable on foot. “You see tons of people walking, riding their bikes,” said Diane Mann, who lives in a part of the neighborhood that doesn’t have sidewalks. Because of a stream that crosses the lower half of the neighborhood, she added, there is no cut-through traffic.

With the nearby park and abundant trees, “we get a lot of wildlife — deer, skunks, foxes,” Cys said.

Just over half a mile away on the Fairfax County Parkway lies South Run Park, which has a county recreation center with fitness center and swimming pool, as well as athletic fields. Some residents use it as their primary gym.

But for kids the main community exercise is the swim club at the neighborhood pool. About 120 children are enrolled, from about a third of the neighborhood’s families.

For adults, the most popular activity may be playing cards. The neighborhood’s euchre games draw scores of players. There are about 60 couples signed up and divided into groups, each with its own leader, according to Mann, who is one of those leaders. Each person is assigned a table and partner at the beginning of the evening, making it a good way to get to know people. “Everyone brings an appetizer to share and [their] own drink,” said Mann.

Sometimes there’s an outdoor euchre night at the pool, which is also the site of the single biggest social event of the year: the Memorial Day weekend barbecue catered by Red, Hot & Blue. “There’s a hometown kind of feel” to the event, said Trump, who is co-chair of the recreation committee.

Activity in the social clubs is encouraged, but it doesn’t seem to take much to get neighbors engaged in the euchre games — or monthly poker or bunco.

Bunco is a chance for the women to get together, while the men have their poker night. Recently some of the men hosted a Texas hold-’em tournament to raise money for a charity as a memorial for one of their members’ wives.

Neighbors say that kind of extension of effort to support or comfort one another is not unusual. “That’s the kind of neighborhood this is, that when moms have kids the neighbors bring dinner for three weeks. . . . Or when you get sick or someone’s mom dies you do the same thing,” said Cys.

Residents pay $270 each quarter for dues, which cover pool maintenance, trash and snow removal, landscaping, and public areas. A seven-member board manages the neighborhood, with the help of nine committees handling everything from architectural-variance reviews to recreation.

Bob Mills and his family moved to South Run in 2002 from nearby South Run Oaks. “We wanted to be in the Lake Braddock School District. Plus it’s a gorgeous neighborhood,” said Mills.

On a recent Saturday, Mills’s daughter Lalie showed off two ribbons and a medal she won in the Special Olympics pentathlon that morning to neighbor Diane Mann. “I came in first place. I was so excited. I was so happy,” said Lalie.

The Mann and Mills families, like many in the neighborhood, forged friendships through their experiences raising children. The two families were neighbors in South Run Oaks and then in South Run. “It’s been great. We’ve been neighbors since 1986, since our kids were born,” Mann said.

Susan Straight is a freelance writer.

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