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In Hickory Creek, neighborly get-togethers are common

The small, close-knit community in Great Falls, Va., is a haven for families and dogs

Ross Day walks with his kids Emery, 4, and Brady, 1, in the Hickory Creek neighborhood of Great Falls, Va. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)
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It was love at first sight for Pankaj and Namita Bhatnagar in 2008 when they saw their home in the Hickory Creek neighborhood of Great Falls, Va. Their first visit came after dark, and the house was lit invitingly at the crest of a winding driveway. Not too big, not too small, the four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 3,000-square-foot house was just right. The couple, who had been living in the Rotunda Condominiums in Tysons Corner, appreciated the proximity to Dulles International Airport for Pankaj, a telecom solutions professional who travels internationally, and to their daughter Sonali’s ballet studio.

But the real winner of the move was their mixed Lab, ­­­­Rocky. Every night, he and his canine pals play off leash in a grassy common area at the end of the street, past what the neighborhood children call the “bamboo forest” and the Hickory Creek Homeowners Association walking trail. Luckily, the pooches are well-behaved and stay close to home, as the common area sits atop the Transco pipeline, a 10,000-mile interstate natural gas pipeline that stretches from New York City to Texas.

“It’s very peaceful and quiet here,” Pankaj Bhatnagar said. “The neighbors are easygoing, and there are no conflicts.”

Hickory Creek, a neighborhood of 90 homes on 100 acres of what once was farmland in Fairfax County, was built in the late 1970s by developers Pinewood and Edwin Jay Smith. The name comes from a stream that runs just east of the community, Captain Hickory Run. It has two main streets, Jaysmith and Harriman, with a handful of short blocks and cul-de-sacs along Harriman. Although short on housing stock, Hickory Creek is long on loyalty and bragging rights.

Neighbors talk of bonds formed over pets at impromptu firepit gatherings and at the bus stop at Jaysmith and Shesue, where parents sip coffee in mugs and await their children in the afternoon.

When Kelly Bergeron and her husband were preparing to move from Cleveland Park in D.C. with their baby daughter in 2015, she scouted play sets in yards of neighborhoods where they were looking, in hopes of finding other families. Hickory Creek scored big, and the couple put in an offer on their house. The day after they moved in, a neighbor dropped by to mow their yard.

Bergeron has organized Halloween outings, Easter egg hunts and other informal get-togethers in the neighborhood. She even held a fundraising drive to buy two goats through Heifer International, a nonprofit that supports farming efforts in 21 countries.

“Nobody is allowed to move from this neighborhood,” she deadpanned. “I’m on watch, they’re on notice. Even if I don’t know someone, I feel comfortable knocking on every door.”

Colleen Stoltz, a real estate agent with Keller Williams, moved with her husband and young son to Hickory Creek from a rental in Georgetown in 2008.

“We found a place we could stay,” she said. “We liked the fact that it was located in the center of things.”

Besides its proximity to Dulles, Tysons and the Northern Virginia suburbs, Hickory Creek is also near Great Falls and Riverbend parks. Residents have access to events sponsored by the Celebrate Great Falls Foundation, including a Fourth of July celebration and concerts on the green of the Great Falls Village Centre, an office and retail area with a gazebo. Hickory Creek residents pay $320 annually in homeowners association dues, which are used for maintaining the common area and walking trail and, in pre-pandemic times, for social events such as picnics, movie nights and Easter egg hunts. Organizers are hopeful those can resume soon.

Retired teacher Sandi Green is an original owner. She joked that when she and her husband bought their house for $110,000 in 1978, she thought she’d be on a steady diet of canned pork and beans to afford the mortgage payment. Now that homes in the neighborhood sell for more than $1 million, her investment has paid off.

Green remembers the early years when horseback riders from a nearby horse farm rode through Hickory Creek. She appreciated that kids could have the run of the neighborhood because it was a safe and fun place to grow up.

“The nicest thing is that you feel like you’re away from it all, but you’re really close to everything,” Green said.

Living There: Hickory Creek is bounded roughly by Jaysmith Street to the west, Galpin Court to the north, Harriman Street and Wilhelm Drive to the east and Shesue Street and Sanders Court to the south.

According to Stoltz, no homes are on the market, and only five have sold in the past 12 months. The average sales price was just under $1.1 million. The highest-priced sale was a five-bedroom, four-bathroom, 2,960-square-foot house for $1.195 million. The lowest-priced sale was a five-bedroom, four-bathroom, 3,129-square-foot house for $950,000.

Schools: Colvin Run Elementary, Cooper Middle, Langley High

Transit: The closest Metro station is Tysons Corner on the Silver Line. It is about 5½ miles from Great Falls. Fairfax Connector buses run along Route 7/Leesburg Pike.