Reston, VA

Biophilic Cities Member since

Reston, VA, a census designated place (CDP) founded by Robert E. Simon, Jr. in 1964, was carved out of the pasture lands of the state’s largest dairy farm and an operating distillery. Simon created “Seven Goals” for the new community. One goal was “That beauty – structural and natural – is a necessity of the good life and should be fostered”. To this end, RA is committed to protecting and enhancing the natural resources that underpin Reston’s natural beauty. Reston’s now extensive urban forests and multiple lakes and ponds are a product of its initial design.

Reston encompasses approximately 7,000 acres, of which 11.4% is managed by RA as meadows, wetlands, and urban forest. These Reston natural areas are connected to residential, commercial, and recreational areas by over 55 miles of paths designed for walking, hiking, and biking. Reston is especially recognized for its tree canopy (currently covering approximately 53% of Reston’s total area). The preservation of green spaces creates healthy viewscapes from much of Reston’s built environment. Reston’s ability to connect its residents with nature where they work, play, and live is one of its most distinguishing characteristics.

RA employs professional staff trained in natural resources management, arboriculture, wildlife management, watershed management, and natural history interpretation, augmented by a 12- member Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) that makes recommendations to the Board regarding environmental and conservation issues. RA also operates the Walker Nature Center encompassing 72 acres of woodlands connected to 250+ additional acres of open space. The Nature Center offers approximately 350 programs for people of all ages, and has a visitation and participation reach of more than 23,500 people annually. It has been recognized with the Certificate of Exceptional Merit by the National Wildlife Federation and Best New Program Award from the Virginia Recreation and Park Society. Other prestigious awards and certifications that validate Reston’s biophilic nature include:

  • Community Wildlife Habitat Certification (2000 – 2015) – National Wildlife Federation
  • Tree City Award – Arbor Day Foundation (1994 – 2017)
  • Gold Leaf Award – International Society of Arboriculture (2008)
  • Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Designation & Certification (2000) – The Humane Society of the United States
  • International Communities in Bloom Award (2004) – International Competition
  • America in Bloom Award (2003) – AIB
  • Certificate of Commendation for the Protection of the Difficult Run Watershed (1997) – VA Department of Forestry
  • Environmental Stewardship Certificate of Recognition (2003) – Fairfax County
  • Money Magazine’s Best Small City in America (2012) and top 30 Best Places to Live (2017) – testimony to its high quality of life.


As Reston accommodates increasing population densities, it strives to maintain its natural areas that give a sense of wellbeing to residents while providing critically important ecological services. With the extension of the Metro rail system through Reston, our community is facing unprecedented development and re-development pressures. It is the Association’s goal to see that such development is done thoughtfully. This entails the development and/or refinement of guidelines, policies, and programs that protect our natural resources and preserve and enhance the many ways Reston’s residents are connected to nature. By tapping into the emerging Biophilic Cities Network, RA will be able to identify and share urban development strategies and projects that may be applicable to Reston’s growth while benefitting the environmental health of its residents.

A crucial step in preparing for the future is to have a reliable understanding of current environmental conditions. To this end, Reston just completed the first baseline assessment of its natural resources and environmental attributes (the Reston Annual State of the Environment Report – RASER). This document now offers a convenient means where data pertaining to Reston’s natural resources can be archived, analyzed, and compared from one year to the next. More than 50 recommendations were generated as a result. It is the Association’s intention that RASER and its future annual updates identify environmental issues and trends early, allowing RA to make the necessary adjustments to policies, programs, and projects to keep Reston healthy for its citizens and visitors today and for generations to come.

City Contact: Claudia Thompson-Deahl, Reston Association’s Senior Environmental Resource Manager,
  • Removal of invasive plants and planting native species
  • Restoration of 29 miles of degraded streams (8 miles have been completed)
  • Installing monarch butterfly waystations
  • Conducting long-term citizen science projects, including stream monitoring; nest-box monitoring; and bird, dragonfly, and butterfly counts
  • Adding bicycling lanes and promoting multimodal transportation

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