'Like We're on Vacation' in Leafy Lake Forest

By Ann Cameron Siegal
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, September 13, 2008

Comparing notes recently, Jake Jacobs and Chris LoGrasso realized they were drawn to Springfield's Lake Forest neighborhood by the same things, even though they moved in 25 years apart.

"The builders went out of their way to keep trees and put in paths," said Jacobs, a resident since 1981. LoGrasso, who moved in two years ago, said he and his wife, Anne, "feel like we're on vacation just walking through the woods."

In Lake Forest, the community's focus is not on the Fairfax County Parkway, which hugs its south side, but rather on the several miles of narrow, paved forested trails that connect the neighborhood's streets to 28-acre Huntsman Lake, a county playground and the Huntsman Square shopping center.

LoGrasso gets added exercise frequently, jogging more than eight miles round trip from home to Burke Lake.

"I'm amazed how active people are here -- always getting out and walking," said Al Brooks, who moved to Lake Forest with his wife, Kathy, in 1997 to get away from rapid growth in their previous community. "There's the sound of kids around."

"Using the paths brings you out here and there in the neighborhood, to places you might not go otherwise," Kathy Brooks said recently as she was walking their brindle boxer, Yuma. "I found another boxer way over on the other side."

Jacobs said: "There's a real sense of community. I don't know [neighbors'] professions, but we talk about golf, dogs, et cetera."

His wife, Kathy, knows everyone by their pets, he said. And plenty of people know her as "Buddy's mom" -- Buddy being their Scottish terrier.

Because there are so many folks strolling about and most of the neighborhood's streets end in cul-de-sacs, people in unfamiliar cars may find a resident tapping on the window to ask whether they need assistance. If there's a sign of youthful mischief, Jacobs said, a firm "knock it off, or I'll tell your parents" reins it in.

"We're not busybodies," Al Brooks said. "We're just observant. It's an old-fashioned policing."

Aside from a fall community day and a huge Christmas party hosted by association president Bev Franklin, there aren't a lot of scheduled social events. "But if you need something, there are people ready to help," Franklin said.

Jacobs, an original owner, recalled the generosity after one family's house caught fire several years ago. Even though the displaced residents had lived in the community only a short time, "their neighbors were going on vacation, so [they] let the family move in," he said.

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