If there was a way to support the town of Grottoes, even after her death, Loretta Harris was the woman to make it possible.
Harris, of Grottoes, died on June 1, 2018, at Sunnyside Retirement Community at the age of 74. For 18 years, she served as a Town Council member and for a period of time, worked alongside her husband, Gene Harris, who served on Town Council from 1992 to 2002.
Even after her husband’s death in 2002 and resigning from Town Council to work at the Department of Rehabilitation Services in Fairfax County in 2006, Harris continued to live in Grottoes.
Grottoes was her home – which is why she decided to declare in her last will and testament a portion of her life savings go to benefiting the town’s parks.
Austin Shank, the town’s parks and tourism director, said Harris left more than $6,700 to Grottoes. At Monday’s Town Council meeting, it was unanimously decided the money will go toward providing benches at the town’s dog park at Mountain View Park in Harris’ memory.
“I am grateful a community member thought they could help us through a monetary donation,” Shank said. “We will honor her memory and work.”
The dog park, located off 20th Street, was created in 2019 after town staff received several comments from residents asking for the town to invest in a dog park. Construction of the park took a few months and by mid-2019, it was open to the public.
The dog park loops around an existing pond on the property, providing ample space for dogs to stretch their legs. There are two separate areas in the park, one for small dogs and another for large dogs.
Shank said the dog park has been “well received” since opening in 2019, but understood there were some amenities that could be added to the park, such as a water source for dogs, an obstacle course and park benches.
“When we met to talk about what we could use the money for, we ultimately decided to continue improving dog park amenities,” he said. “The benches seemed like a wonderful item.”
The benches will be designed to look like replicas of existing benches at the town’s parks. Shank said the benches will likely be placed within two to three months and feature a commemorative plaque in honor of Harris.
As of Tuesday, there are no plans to host an unveiling or formal ceremony once the benches are in place, but plans could change once the parks and recreation committee works on finalizing the efforts.
Other items on Monday’s agenda included approving a proposal to add a bike repair station by the old town jail off Third Street.
The bike repair station will be a self-serve area for bicyclists and be located adjacent to Broad Porch Coffee Co.’s coffee truck.
Councilman Mike Betts said Tuesday that the station will serve as a way for “Grottoes to embrace cyclists who come into town.”
The bike repair station was approved unanimously by council.