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Winkler Botanical Preserve in Alexandria, VA

The Winkler Botanical Preserve in Alexandria, VA may be one of the best kept secrets in our area or at least it was for me.  I admit that I was not familiar with it until just the past month or two.

Once again, it was our local list servs that provided the pertinent information.  Seems this tranquil, 44 acre property devoted to preserving Potomac Valley flora and providing free environmental education for students in Alexandria City Public Schools, or at least part of it, was slated to become a new interstate exit!

But first, a bit about the Winker Botanical Preserve.  The Preserve exists thanks to the largess of local philanthropist Catherine Winkler Herman who was also an avid environmentalist.

For many years Mrs. Herman walked her dog Lilly on the property which was an abandoned pig farm.  After her husband died in 1970, she wanted to create “a place of beauty” in his name.  Her children added the “Catherine Lodge” a lovely natural stone and wood building used for programs and for Camp Winkler.

There are gentle hiking trails, a lake, waterfall, Hobbit House and a mountain climbing training tower.

Towering cranes from nearby construction and traffic noise from adjacent I-395 are initially jarring to the senses but soon fall aside as you begin to appreciate this special city get away.

There is even a Camp Winkler during the summer where children build forts in the woods, climb nature trails, challenge the ropes course and experience great ‘no tech’ fun.

Word has it though that getting into Camp Winkler is almost as tough as getting a ticket for the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Now, back to the controversy.

The new BRAC 133 complex at the junction of I-395 and Seminary Road will bring 6,000 workers into the area and transportation (local and interstate) concerns are real for this already busy area.  This complex will be part of on-going base alignment that will turn Ft. Belvoir into a ‘small city’.

VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation), despite protests from Alexandria City Council, seemed to focus almost exclusively on Winkler as the site for a new exit and would take the land via eminent domain.

Once it got out that Winkler was in danger, the community rallied with a Friends of Winkler Web page, and a fan page on FaceBook.  The biggest component of the push though were petitions and meeting alerts circulated by list servs and blogs all over Alexandria.

One of the most active groups were our friends on the Lincolnia Hills Heywood Glen blog.  Thanks to those petitions and with support from U.S. Congressman Jim Moran, VDOT has taken a step back.

The controversy isn’t over but now that I know about Winkler and its contribution to the community, I’ll be circulating those petitions too!

Want to know more about homes in this area?  Give me a call at 703.927.4554 and let’s see what we can find near the Winkler Botanical Preserve.


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  1. Elinor Shemeld

    My name is Elinor Shemeld. I am the summer camp director for Hollin Hall Summer Day Camp. My neigher Rich Bihan recommended the Winkler Preserve for hiking and zip lining for my older campers. I would like to arrange this a cuple of times this summer season. How would I go about doing this?

    Thanks so much,

  2. Michael Bergin

    Elinor –

    Thank you for visiting us. Unfortunately we are only a conduit of information. For the kind of arrangements you are talking about you will need to contact the Winkler Preserve directly.


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