How Parks & Trails Bring One Arlington Family Together

Maddie Stein Tweet Us April 24, 2018
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Maddie Stein in the interim program manager for WalkArlington. Having never owned a car, she enjoys riding the extensive trail networks in Arlington to get around.

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Arlington resident, Suzanne Garwood, takes full advantage of the incredible parks and trails around the County with her family and opens up about how hiking brings her family together.

Suzanne Garwood is an Arlington resident, attorney, and mom who enjoys exploring parks in Arlington with her family. Suzanne tells us how exploring parks has not only become an opportunity for her family to get outside but has also provided space for her two kids with special needs to build confidence and independence.

Interview with Suzanne

Tell us a little bit about your family and what sort of activities each family member enjoys?

We are a family of four, plus our dog, Gator. My husband and I are usually training for one race or another. Right now he’s training for an Ironman in Tennessee in September, and I’m training for the Marine Corps Marathon.

We have two children, Connor and Sloane, both of whom have Down syndrome. Sloane is non- verbal. Connor is active with Tae Kwon Do, basketball, and Best Buddies. Sloane isn’t really able to participate in team sports, but she loves to walk and looks forward to our weekend hikes. Folks often ask how I know what Sloane wants since she is non verbal. When it comes to hiking, anyone who sees her smile during our hikes would understand how much she loves it.

How long have you lived in Arlington and was access to public trails/parks a factor in your decision of where to live?

We moved from Fairfax to Arlington in 2003. Parks were definitely a factor in that decision. I’m one of those runners whose hatred of the treadmill is borderline irrational, so it’s important for me to have a place to run nearby. Fortunately, I live in Spy Hill above Bluemont Park and can hop down for a run almost any time.

How did you first become interested in hiking as a family?

I guess my kids were just born into it! When I was pregnant I would hike almost every Saturday morning in Great Falls with my then dog, Gibson. Gibson has since passed away, but I continue to hike with Sloane and Gator. As a busy attorney and mom, hiking is one time I have to just enjoy the quiet.

Has hiking or being outside had any particular effect on your children and how?

Confidence. Since my kids have special needs, I’m probably more of a helicopter mom than others moms. But the exception is when we go hiking. Connor loves to hike by way of climbing rocks in the stream and Sloane will navigate rocks and challenging terrain on her own–swatting away a helping hand when she wants to do it by herself. Our parks give my kids the ability to be independent in a way that other places don’t.

What are some of your favorite hikes/walks in Arlington?

Lubber Run is our favorite for a number of reasons. First, Sloane also has autism so routine is exceptionally important. She’s most comfortable when she knows where to go and what to expect. Second, it’s quiet. It has far less traffic (especially bikes) which is important to Sloane and to me. Third, it has a nice mile loop that is the perfect distance for Sloane.

What advice would you offer to other families trying to explore Arlington trails?

Get out there and enjoy. We are so lucky to have such beautiful parks available all around Arlington.

With spring finally here, it’s perfect weather to be outside enjoying all of the beautiful parks and trails around Arlington, so take Suzanne’s advice.

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