Many residents of Fairfax Station's Barrington community spend a lot of time going around in circles.
The 476 houses in Barrington are all on streets that connect to the community's "social circle," Braymore Circle, which is nine-tenths of a mile in circumference. Walkers and joggers often stop to catch up on news with their neighbors.
Barrington is made for those seeking quiet streets and lots of exercise. Paige Robertory said her family enjoys the miles of biking and hiking trails surrounding the community. Paved paths through wooded areas connect Barrington to the nearby 43-acre Lake Mercer as well as to South Run recreation center and Burke Lake.
"Sometimes we just put on backpacks and go for an adventure," Robertory said.
Sometimes, they go by bicycle. It's three miles through the woods to Burke Lake from their house -- without crossing a street -- and five miles around the lake, so they might pack a picnic and make a day of it.
Being in a community with only one road in and out removes worries about through traffic. "It makes it easy to have parades through the streets," said Pam Jones, a resident since 1992. The numerous cul-de-sacs and pipe stems -- private driveways shared by two or more houses -- offer pockets of safe romping space for children.
"We have 15 to 20 kids on our cul-de-sac," said Susan Tesorero, a mother of two. "People open up their homes to each other. It's like an extended family."
Jones said: "This is the kind of place everyone wants to live in, but doesn't know it exists anymore."
Barrington is a social community with a love of acronyms. Many of its activities are organized by the MOB -- Mothers of Barrington -- and communicated through BOB -- the Barrington Online Bulletin. About 350 residents have signed up for BOB, where they learn about opportunities for community service, meet new neighbors, or give cheers and boos to local contractors.
The MOB is a casual women's group where popcorn appetizers are as welcome as salmon mousse and where keeping on top of regional issues is as much of a focus as sponsoring neighborhood celebrations.
Eugenia McGroarty, one of the group's founders, said the group's formal name -- everyone calls it the MOB -- is a misnomer because she doesn't have children and neither do several other active members. McGroarty describes the group as reflecting Barrington's diversity when it comes to family make-up and interests. While some members have no children, others "have babies, preteens, teens, young adults or grandchildren," she said.
Tesorero, a former Fairfax County teacher who is community service manager for the MOB, said that when her family moved to Barrington in 1999, the group offered her a quick way to meet people and get referrals for doctors and dentists. Since then, she said, she has found a generosity among her neighbors that amazes her.
"This is such a giving community," she said. "When the call goes out for help, this community comes through time and time again with tons of stuff."
For several years, residents have stuffed countless backpacks with school supplies for needy children. "I just imagine the students' faces as they opened those," Tesorero said.
When Tesorero set out a collection box in her front yard and put out a call for winter coats to help the underprivileged, the box was soon overflowing.
The first of Barrington's houses was built in the late 1980s, before the nearby Lorton area became developed and local schools began bursting at the seams. Barrington's middle and high school students are bused to Hayfield, 12 miles away. However, a new South County secondary school for 2,500 students is slated to open nearby in the fall of 2005.
Even though home construction was not completed until 1999, Barrington today has an established look. Paul Hietanen, out walking with his 6-year-old daughter, said, "The builders left a lot of trees. It looks mature from a landscaping point of view."
The large, executive-style houses have brick or stone fronts and two-story foyers. Nine years ago, front and rear stairwells and the openness in one home sold Howard and Margaret Boone on Barrington. Their kitchen provides visibility into the dining room, the two-story family room and on out to the deck, making for easy entertaining.
With eight grandchildren coming to visit throughout the summer and their membership in a progressive-dinner-party club, the Boones get a lot of use out of their space.
Although the neighborhood's four-bedroom houses are situated on quarter-acre lots, they don't appear to be on top of each other. Kathy and Troy Churchman's deck is rather close to their neighbors', but their house is angled to minimize the appearance of closeness. Avid gardeners, the Churchmans have made the most of their corner lot, planting 350 day lilies around their home -- all set to bloom in mid-July.
In warm weather, much of the community gathers at the pool, where more than 100 children are members of the Blue Fins swim team. Open to ages 5 to 18, the only requirement to be on the team is the ability to swim the length of the pool using any stroke -- even the dog paddle. Although the team has had several winning seasons, those involved say competition is not as important as encouraging each swimmer to have fun and reach a personal best. Annual team-sponsored whipped cream fights in the parking lot or wacky relay races in the pool are among the favorite social events.
Kenneth Reinshuttle, executive director of the Fairfax Education Association, helped start the swim team 11 years ago. "Kids have grown up through the team," he said. "They stayed to become lifeguards and coaches and went on to do well in high school and college. They're role models now. This was a good healthy place for them to be."