Wonder Wagon Nature Center Ready to Roll

Wonder Wagon Nature Center Ready to Roll

Mobile unit to assure nature learning reaches all

If you are unable to get close to nature at Fairfax County’s extensive system of 420 parks, 324 trails, or five Nature Centers, it could be for a variety of reasons. It might be lack of transportation or personal mobility issues, or for want of an available, knowledgeable nature guide. Now, thanks to several generous donors, nature is able to come to you, complete with helpful nature educators. The county’s newly unveiled Wonder Wagon, a mobile nature center, is ready to roll. The unveiling, employing a necessarily huge drop cloth, marked the beginning of service on April 20th at the county’s Earth Day Fairfax 2024 celebration. (See more on starting on page 3)

The mobile center was dedicated with a Board of Supervisors proclamation, read out at the Earth Day event by county supervisors, 

Executive director of the Park Foundation, Bobbi Longworth, said the early popularity of the Wonder Wagon suggests they need to work towards adding a second unit 


Kathy Smith, Sully District; Walter Alcorn, Hunter Mill District; and James Bierman Jr, Dranesville District, whose son notably shouted out the last words. The supervisors, joined by donors, and members and staff of the Park Authority, the Park Authority Board, and Park Foundation, officially cut the ribbon as the vehicle was undraped.

The County bills the Wagon as “not just a van; it’s an experience.” It brings hands-on experiences with plants and wildlife to create a connection with nature and help lead to a life-time appreciation for the beauty of nature and a long-term commitment to advocating for the environment. 

The program will build to an expected 150 different programs offered by the mobile unit. A few of those inspiring encounters and nature-based educational programs were featured after the ribbon-cutting. Near the Wonder Wagon’s colorful exterior, under its attached awning and at nearby tables, event-goers sampled programs presented by park authority staff and Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers. Kids and adults closely examined birds, beetles, and the tiny things around us. And instead of the usual admonishment not to touch, participants were invited to a “Please Touch Table.” At each station, they could explore, closer than nature allows, through a taxidermy and animal skeletal exploration, touch, sound, and magnified vision.

The Park Authority’s mobile nature center is designed to promote environmental and nature-based educational programs to underserved areas of Fairfax County, in support of the Ten Community Outcome Areas established in the county-wide Strategic Plan. The project is supported by major donors: Pohanka 100, Crabtree Family Foundation, Chesapeake Gateway’s, The Community Fund, The Environmental Fund, Dominion Energy, and Fairfax County, as well as several other individual and organizational donors. Funding provided not only the vehicle, but supports two new staff positions and program elements.

Described as already so popular that the Park Foundation seeks to add a second mobile unit, requests are being taken for public events, outreach and public schools. To find the Wonder Wagon event schedule or to request a visit at an event, see https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/wonder-wagon