Orange Hunt Estates' Youth Movement

By Ann Cameron Siegal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 27, 2001

"Darn it, I feel just like June Cleaver here," said Paula Manion, a former Air Force nurse who with her husband is raising three children in Fairfax County's Orange Hunt Estates.

For years, Manion fought her family's suggestion that she move to the neighborhood. Because she perceived the mid-1960s houses as old and small, she and her husband spent many hours looking for something newer and bigger.

By the time her Aunt Ernestine's house went on the market two years ago, Manion had reconsidered. Now, her praises flow -- one rapid-fire exclamation after another. "These houses are built like rocks. Nothing is going to shake them loose. . . . I have an outside kitchen door just like my mother had. The kids can come in through the back, rather than through some grand foyer. . . . Everyone walks their kids to school here."

Manion is representative of a new wave of young families who have discovered what the original residents of Orange Hunt Estates realized more than 35 years ago: Little things add up to a great family-oriented neighborhood.

Key ingredients, residents say, are mature trees just right for swings, well-maintained yards and a network of sidewalks that encourage people to be out and about. Twice a day the sidewalks are particularly busy as stay-at-home moms accompany children to and from school. Two streets, Game Lord and Conservation, are circular, almost a mile long each, making perfect paths for dog walking or an evening stroll.

Sidewalk conversations touch on many topics, from the location of the best homemade Halloween decorations to the latest community efforts related to Sept. 11.

The community is stable but not stagnant. There is a frequent turnover of military families, although many rent out their homes in hopes of returning later. "The military folk are delightful," a resident said. "They unpack, hang pictures and are ready to join in."

Julie Goeringer, a former electronics engineer, found herself on the receiving end of neighborliness when she moved in eight years ago. "When I was pregnant with my first child, people came out of the woodwork to make it easy on us."

Many conveniences have followed residents to what was once a rural area. There are two neighborhood elementary schools, one with a German immersion program; three pools; and a non-intrusive civic association. Virginia Railway Express and Metro are easily accessible.

"The Fairfax County Parkway has made things very convenient," said Duane Carlson, pastor emeritus of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Springfield, where he served for 37 years.

His wife, Alice, had always lived in a parsonage, first as a preacher's daughter and then when she married. Thrilled to finally have their own place when they moved to Orange Hunt when it was new, the Carlsons still have the original receipt for their house, showing they paid $36,837.

Sue Farmer, an original owner who started the civic association, said there were only 66 houses when she bought hers, "and we thought the prices were high."

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