Paddlers take kayaks out on Thompson Basin in this 2018 file photo.

By Paul Lara, Belvoir Eagle

Nestled along Thomson Bay is one Fort Belvoir’s many gems: A large area for walking, running, a long shoreline to enjoy the view of the Potomac and the eagles and ospreys, and the spot where you have access to gear to make the most of the watery fun. Fort Belvoir’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s building, at the water’s edge, is the heart of Outdoor Recreation.

The U.S. Army’s Outdoor Recreation program is celebrating 50 years of supporting Soldiers, civilians and their families through morale building and healthy lifestyle-oriented activities and services.

The first Outdoor Recreation program was established in 1971 and since then, ODR has been providing programs and services around the world at Army installations.


John O’Sullivan, the U.S. Army ODR program director, said ODR has been running successfully for five decades due to the benefits of the program.

“ODR’s mission is to teach outdoor skills and leisure activities which improve overall quality of life,” said O’Sullivan. “The fact that ODR has been maintained for 50 years, and continues to build, is a reason to celebrate. ODR has earned recognition through achievements.”

O’Sullivan said quality of life has been improved through ODR because it provides a different perspective for Soldiers.

“They can get away from their normal environment, develop new skills and learn about lifetime leisure programs,” said O’Sullivan. “ODR gets them outside in the fresh air and gives them the opportunity to enjoy nature. Every aspect of the environment is your playground, if you use it properly.”

“We’re hoping we get people to come out and participate in the watersports at their disposal, and also check out the other equipment we have available,” said Romel Voellm, Fort Belvoir’s Outdoor Recreation Director. “We want people to know these outdoor activities are especially safe activities during the pandemic.”


“We have kayaks, canoes, john boats, fishing boats, paddle boats, pontoon boats, and we also have an inflatable paddle boat. If you have a smaller vehicle, or can’t tow, this is great to take it somewhere and pump it up for use,” said Voellm, who has plans to expand the number of inflatables later this year.

There are two large fishing piers on Tomkins Basin that provide easy access for those with disabilities. While bait is available for purchase, due to the pandemic, you have to bring your own fishing equipment. Fishing on the installation also requires a Virginia license and a Belvoir permit. It’s very easy to get the Belvoir permit through iSportsman.

To celebrate 50 years, local ODR programs will be holding events to showcase the opportunities available through the Garrison. Patrons will be able to see the greater benefits to morale, comprehensive fitness, and overall well-being.

Events will adhere to safety guidelines, including applicable pandemic rules and restrictions.

An outdoor adventure photo sweepstakes will be held June 1 to Sept. 7 across Army MWR and ODR social media accounts.

“We’re hoping more customers come out here and safely enjoy what we have to offer,” Voellm said.

Outdoor Recreation is open Wed – Mon, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and is closed Tuesday. Holiday hours are typically 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. If you’d like to rent equipment or see what is available, call 703-805-3081. Fort Belvoir fishing permits are required, and can be purchased at