Seven programs working to beautify Northern Virginia by offering innovative solutions to a wide range of problems were honored by the Northern Virginia Community Appearance Alliance at an award ceremony last week.

Judy White, one of 25 alliance board members and chairman of the special award nominating committee, said that the citations are awarded annually to "citizens groups, architects, developers and government people who contribute to the visual and environmental appeal of the area."

The alliance is part of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors' public relations efforts and is made up of representatives from citizens groups, urban planning offices, real estate agencies and government bodies.

White said that the nominating committee sought projects "that may seem to be on a local scale but that could have an impact on a much larger scale," citing the Lake Barcroft Watershed Improvement District, a self-taxing authority responsible for the upkeep of the 140-acre lake in eastern Fairfax County, as a good example.

The Lake Barcroft group won its award for its battle against algal bloom, the occasional explosion of algae in the lake that turns a swimmers paradise into a murky green sludge. "The water turns green, you get a scum on the top of the lake and with every heavy rain they're off blooming again," said improvement district chairman Leonard Alne.

Alne published a pamphlet called "Don't Feed the Lake," admonishing the 1,000 homeowners around the lake to stop using the chemical lawn fertilizers that are responsible for the blooms. Because algal bloom affects the entire Chesapeake Bay water system, the pamphlet is soon to be distributed to lawn enthusiasts throughout the region.

On a regional scale, Fairfax County's Community Improvement and Conservation Areas Program, "designed to upgrade older neighborhoods in the county with the direct involvement of homeowners," according to spokeswoman Mary Stephens, was honored for its work rehabilitating 22 Northern Virginia neighborhoods since the late 1970s, most recently the Lacey Boulevard area of Baileys Crossroads.

For its solution to the difficult problem of preserving Loudoun County's rural character in the face of widespread development, the Loudoun County Rural Hamlet Zoning Ordinance, which permits rural landowners to cluster developement on 20 percent of their land with the proviso that the other 80 percent be left undeveloped, also received an award.

Other award recipients include Herndon Tree-Action, a 300-strong citizens group working since 1986 to protect the town's trees, the 105-year-old Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society for its work in historic preservation, the Hume Springs Civic Association for the "revitalization" of Hume Springs Park, and the Fort Belvoir Design Installation Guide for setting up guidelines requiring that the 8,000-acre military installation not compromise the beauty of the surrounding environment.