Communing With Nature and Neighbors
In Loudoun Subdivision, People Come Together Around Lake, Family and Local Wildlife

By Ann Cameron Siegal
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, March 29, 2008

With its attractive entrances, well-maintained yards and appealing homes, the Lakes at Red Rock appears at first glance to be just one of many pleasant eastern Loudoun County neighborhoods.

Residents say, though, that its casual camaraderie and wildlife-enticing common areas set it apart.

There actually are red rocks, primarily underground but often uncovered during landscaping. And though there's just one lake, a picturesque covered footbridge and the water's extended tributaries magnify its presence.

A raccoon and a large red-tailed hawk seemed very much at home near the water's edge early one recent morning as residents walked dogs nearby.

The lake, stocked with small bass and bluegill for catch-and-release fishing, is also used in warmer weather by kayakers and canoeists for quiet paddling.

The lake was there before the neighborhood, said Sola Pallotta, the homeowners association president and a resident since 2000. Hurricane Agnes destroyed it, though, in 1972. The lake was re-created when development of Red Rock began in the late 1990s.

Dave McCarthy recalled how his wife, Dawn, spent 18 months looking for "the perfect lot." He said, "This was the 10th place she'd seen, but this really was it, and we got the terrific neighborhood, too."

Their five-bedroom house backs to the water and a view of the covered bridge. Apple, peach and plum trees grace the property, but beavers recently took out a willow and river birch. During one of February's warm days, their son Henry, 7, had to tote his fishing rod only about 15 yards to the lake's edge.

With 374 homes, including 140 townhouses, the Lakes at Red Rock is "not too big, not too small," Pallotta said. "It's cozy. And yet we're close to everything -- we just don't have to see it. We're tucked away from the hustle and bustle but can get to Costco, Target, the outlet malls or downtown Leesburg in 10 minutes."

David Sample, a father of three and a resident since 2002, said: "For a small community like this, the participation level is incredible. The lake, trails and woods attracted us, but the neighbors kept us here."

Groups for book lovers and poker and bunco players are active. A "past-prime" soccer group plays at the Dulles SportsPlex. There is an annual neighborhood golf championship at nearby Goose Creek and a "soggy doggy day" each year after the community's pool closes.

Volunteer efforts are popular, too, including clothing drives and environmental activities. This year, residents dropped a number of discarded Christmas trees into the lake to provide habitat for fish.

The biggest community-builder, however, seems to be the swim team. Started six years ago with about 60 children, the Red Rock Rockets now have about 150 members. The community pool has a "beach entry" where a slope at one end gradually increases from a few inches to a couple of feet, so even the most timid of toddlers can feel part of the action.

"It's more than just swimming," said McCarthy, who described being on the swim team as more like going to camp. Dinners out, movies and bowling events are routine for participating families. "Parents also get to know each other," he said.

Vivian and Ray Baldwin, grandparents 10 times over and original owners in Red Rock, bought their lakeside home with its first-floor master suite from blueprints in a trailer. Today they share stories of wildlife watching, such as when raccoons had babies in the tree just outside their large corner kitchen windows. The Baldwins keep the bird feeders full in the winter -- both for the birds' benefit and for their own entertainment.

Lynn and Andrew Iannizzi moved to Lakes at Red Rock seven years ago. As their family grew, they began looking elsewhere for a larger home. Last year, they moved across the lake, staying within the community. "We looked everywhere else but couldn't find anything comparable," said Lynn, a wedding planner.

The community's first houses were built by Brookfield Homes, but there are a number by Robert B. Jordan Cos., including some with a wall of windows that make the most of the natural settings.

Dan Freire, a real estate agent who moved to Red Rock in 2006, said the townhouses range from 2,000 to 3,000 square feet, while the single-family houses run from just under 3,000 to nearly 7,000 square feet. Inside, they have open floor plans, classic archways, fine molding and even some wide curving staircases that lend themselves to great family photos.

Lots range from one-fourth to one-half acre, with many houses backing to either water or trees. Iannizzi's two young children were fascinated when six deer were spotted grazing in their back yard recently.

For many residents, the houses were secondary to the welcome they received, even when first looking at the community. Sandy Niese, who moved to Red Rock five years ago, said that when she visited open houses, neighbors would come out and chat, sharing information about community activities.

The Lakes at Red Rock's homeowners association has covenants to help maintain property values. Volunteers handle each application for exterior changes individually.

"It's simple, straightforward," Pallotta said of the process.

Four years ago, Maria and Robert Powell, grandparents of six, bought an end-unit townhouse with a covered porch. Since then, a deck, a patio and a rock garden have been added to what Powell refers to as "my retirement house." She said she finds the three levels to be good exercise.

At first worried that she was the oldest resident on her block -- 60, vs. others in their 20s and 30s -- she has since found a supportive community. "When you have a problem, you can send an e-mail to others . . . and someone will help you," she said.

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