Recently I had the pleasure of attending a banquet where VNPS member Cathy Ledec was honored as Fairfax County’s 2018 Citizen of the Year. How gratifying it is to see someone recognized for efforts in preserving our natural environment! This prestigious award has been presented for the past 69 years by the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations, an organization established in 1940.
Cathy’s achievements are an inspiration to all of us. I first met Cathy several years ago when we both participated in the Christmas Bird Count for the Mount Vernon sector. She and her husband George, (whom she met through the Christmas Bird Count), covered a different area than my partner Harry Glasgow and I did, but the entire group met before and after the count for socializing and record-keeping. Later she became president of the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park and also chairman of the Fairfax County Tree Commission.
Below is the nomination narrative, which can also be viewed at the Fairfax County Federation website:
Cathy Ledec is a force of nature – by being a force FOR nature, with an intensity and focus that is truly remarkable. She has behind her a lifetime of volunteerism that began when she was 14. Once she retired in 2015, the whirlwind that had been Cathy’s volunteer work became a tornado of volunteerism that benefits all of us in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia. The hallmark of her accomplishments has been not just volunteering, but taking on steadily increasing roles in organizing and motivating others. What is typical of Cathy is that she volunteers with a group, then gets more involved, and soon she is organizing, coordinating, leading, and empowering others to get involved.
Cathy has received many awards for her extensive volunteer work since the early 2000s, both as an individual and as part of Friends groups in which she led activities and projects. She frequently provides public testimony and comments to influence land use planning cases, seeking improvements to environmental conditions that will benefit us and future residents of Fairfax County.
She volunteers with several Fairfax County Park Authority Programs and you might find her “deep in the weeds” pulling English ivy from our trees and working to restore our forests and woodlands. She is actively engaged in numerous citizen science activities with the Fairfax County Park Authority and the National Audubon Society. Cathy is frequently asked to serve on advisory boards and make presentations inspiring and empowering others to make a positive difference.
She is also an active leader in her own HOA, Pavilions at Huntington Metro Community Association, leading landscaping efforts and converting to all native plants and trees. Cathy also led the re-landscaping of the Mt. Vernon Government Center and led the installation of two native pollinator meadows, at Mt. Eagle Park and within her HOA. In each case, she spearheaded the application process, researched, wrote and was awarded multiple grants to fund this work, and organized volunteers to install the plantings, resulting in the restoration of key natural landscaping elements.
Cathy also led two significant and complex conservation efforts at Huntley Meadows Park, resulting in the protection of rare natural and historic resources for present and future generations to enjoy. The first was through the State Corporation Commission’s regulatory process and successfully challenged a 2.6-mile transmission line rebuild project. As a result, the utility agreed to change the project design to avoid damaging a historic viewshed and to reduce the transmission line collision risk for birds. Cathy led a second effort that removed two conceptual paved bike trails from the Fairfax County plans for Huntley Meadows Park, thereby protecting the County’s largest conservation area from the adverse impacts of these cut-through transportation corridors.
Cathy conducts massive public outreach at community events, enthusiastically inspiring others to come experience the natural world here in Fairfax County. She passionately fulfills the purpose of the nature-oriented certifications and designations she has earned, including Certification as a Fairfax Master Naturalist and Audubon-at-Home Program Ambassador.
Cathy was elected in January 2019 as Chair of the Fairfax County Tree Commission. We will all continue to benefit from her hard work to improve our urban forests, on both public and private lands.
For her many and diverse volunteer efforts behalf of the Fairfax County Parks and our environment, the Fairfax Federation is honored to recognize Catherine Ledec as Citizen of the Year.
On behalf of the entire VNPS, we congratulate Cathy on this well-deserved recognition!