When I was growing up, my brother, sisters, and I always found a big fat California navel orange in our holiday stockings on Christmas morning. I suspect the tradition harkens back to a time when oranges were exotic and expensive tropical treats, not usual fare for the middle of winter, a bright ray of sunshine in an otherwise cold holiday season. Whatever the reason for the practice, the tradition continues with my own children. Another tradition, ostensibly from Europe, was a lump of coal in your stocking if you were bad instead of good, for goodness sake!
So, in the holiday spirit, I offer a few oranges or lumps of coal during the past year:
• A nice big fat orange to Betsy Washington and her team of Lake Barcroft gardeners who transformed a thicket overgrown with invasive vines into a beautiful demonstration garden of Virginia native plants. Along the way, property owners learned how they could make their homes more environmentally friendly.
• Another big fat orange to Scott Birdwell, Kevin Holland, and many others who recruited homeowners willing to create or maintain backyard habitats for birds and animals in Mason District. Their five-year effort culminated this fall in a backyard habitat designation for Mason District by the National Wildlife Federation.
• A lump of coal to drivers who insist on turning right on red without coming to a stop first. We’ve all seen too many near misses as a result. Ditto for drivers who seem to think that stop signs were meant for other drivers, not themselves.
• Another orange for Transurban and Fluor, the private partners advancing the Capital Beltway HOT Lanes Project, for their small community grants program. Several Mason District neighborhoods and civic groups have benefited by the grants, which serve communities adjacent to and most affected by the construction of the HOT Lanes. While lumps of coal might be appropriate for some of the construction chaos that makes navigating the Beltway a real challenge, this commitment by Transurban and Fluor deserves recognition. Grant application information is available online at www.virginiahotlanes.com/grants.
• A lump of coal to people who fail to bring in their trash cans for days after garbage pick-up. The empty receptacles can blow around and make the neighborhood look like no one cares.
• Likewise, a lump of coal to drivers of dump trucks and other commercial vehicles who use service drives as parking lots for their fleets at night and on weekends. It’s ugly, it’s dangerous, and it’s not fair to legitimate business owners whose services are adversely affected by these hulking behemoths blocking sight distance and access.
• An orange to beautification efforts of Parklawn Civic Association and the Culmore Clean Up. Parklawn volunteers worked hard to improve the entrance areas to their neighborhood, with very attractive results. In Culmore, hundreds of volunteers come out twice a year to pick up litter and improve our diverse community, and have fun doing it!
• Finally, a big juicy orange to the Mason Police Station’s Parking Enforcement Officer Jim Carroll. Since his arrival in March, Officer Carroll has written nearly 4000 tickets and impounded more than 80 vehicles, thereby making neighborhoods safer and free of vehicular nuisances. During the holiday season, however, Officer Carroll will not be writing tickets for any rooftop parking by sleighs and reindeer!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at email@example.com