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Fairfax Maps Tourist Gems
'FX Marks the Spot' Campaign Starts

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Fairfax County rolled out a new slogan yesterday -- "FX Marks the Spot" -- designed to help tourists discover its "buried treasures" of historic sites, museums, art centers and other destinations.

The soon-to-be ubiquitous brand -- a play on pirates' tradition of drawing an X on their maps to indicate stashed gold -- is the centerpiece of an unprecedented $1 million campaign, presented to the County Board of Supervisors, to promote Fairfax as a tourist attraction.

This sprawling suburb in the shadow of the nation's capital, the place known for Tysons Corner, Dulles International Airport and lots of cul-de-sacs and traffic jams, will now be known as "FXVA," a land of presidential history, parks, historic mills and taverns, and world-class music, if Visit Fairfax, the county's year-old tourism agency, has its way. The new campaign is in full swing on its Web site, http://www.fxva.com/ .

The brand was designed as a recognizable image to make visitors feel they are in Fairfax and nowhere else.

"We want to give the impression that Fairfax County is the spot to be," Visit Fairfax President C. Arnie Quirion said.

Also yesterday, after a contentious three-hour hearing, the board unanimously approved a development of 24 homes on 13 acres abutting the Washington & Old Dominion bike trail in Vienna.

Close to 30 neighbors and civic groups, evenly split between opponents and supporters, testified about McLean developer Elm Street's proposal to develop the property as Wedderburn Estates.

The issue has galvanized many residents frustrated by the rapid pace of development on the county's remaining buildable land.

Opponents, who lobbied to scale back the project, said the developers would jam too many houses onto the wooded property and provide an insufficient buffer to the adjacent bike trail. And they were angry at the county's decision to reclassify a stream on the property to allow development around it.

"I'd like to plead for the quality of the neighborhood," said Dorothea Walsh, whose property adjoins the Wedderburn tract. "And I think we are about to lose that. . . . It's not sufficient to leave a few great old trees."

But supporters said they were satisfied that the new homes would not change the neighboorhood's bucolic character -- and could even improve it.

Edward Blum, another neighbor, called the land a "messy, messy, overgrown parcel of untamed trees" and said traffic from the new homes project would be "barely noticeable."

Yesterday's launch of the county's "FX Marks the Spot" brand featured a celebration in front of the County Government Center and included a Fairfax Connector bus wrapped in a map of tourist spots designated by arrows on giant blue Post-its.

The promotional bus will run on Connector routes in western Fairfax.

Tourism officials said their campaign is based on information collected in a large marketing survey conducted this summer.

The survey defined the typical visitor to the county of 399 square miles and more than 1 million people: Someone visiting friends or family (56 percent of the leisure market) and arriving by car from within 300 miles, mostly from New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland or North Carolina.

While many Washington area tourists sleep in the county's 17,500 hotel rooms, they do their sightseeing elsewhere. And although business travelers fill the rooms during the week, weekend business can be slow, the survey found.

"The question for these people is what can they do in Fairfax?" Quirion said.

Visit Fairfax's $1 million budget will help answer that question. Yesterday also marked the launch of an advertising blitz in newspapers and magazines in markets from Delaware to New York. The campaign is funded by a local hotel tax approved two years ago by the Virginia General Assembly.

Late last night, the board also unanimously approved a new cable-television franchise agreement with Verizon Communications Inc. The agreement will give the company a premier foothold in the video market and offer a competitor to Cox Communications for Internet service. Some residents had complained about property and utility damage that hundreds of Virginia homeowners have endured as Verizon replaces its underground copper network with more advanced fiber-optic lines.

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