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Four Mile Run is Nine Miles Long
June 18, 2013 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Four Mile Run is an urban stream that runs through the middle of Arlington County Virginia, inside the Washington Capital Beltway. It is nine miles long, having been accidentally renamed by a typo from its original designation as "Flour Mill Run"

Surveyed by George Washington. The stream once hosted flour mills, such as Barcroft Mill that processed the agricultural products of Arlington County. After the Civil War a popular resort sprang up on his banks called Carlin Springs. In the 1970s the US Army Corps of Engineers heavily modified the stream to control flooding, resulting in a loss of animal habitat and transforming the river into little more than an storm sewer. In the late 1970s civic activists launched a plan to restore the stream, leading to the creation of a large urban park with trails serving the community. The efforts are descried in the short film, Four Mile Run: Reviving an Urban Stream. Restoration continues with the upgrade of the Arlington County wastewater treatment facility and ongoing restoration plan for the stream.
posted by humanfont (26 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Four Mile Run is Nine Miles Long

Doo-dah, doo-dah.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:58 AM on June 18, 2013 [53 favorites]


having been accidentally renamed by a typo from its original designation as "Flour Mill Run"

Fucking auto-correct, amirite?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:12 AM on June 18, 2013


And here I thought my Garmin had just been off all this time.
posted by psoas at 8:17 AM on June 18, 2013


I had been wondering about the story behind the stream and the trail after being nonplussed by seeing this sign while running around the Arlington bike trail loop a few years back.

Thank you for the post, humanfont!
posted by beryllium at 8:17 AM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Four Mile Run is Nine Miles Long

Hah! In Chicagoland, we have the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway, which goes neither to Elgin nor O'Hare airport!

BRILLIANT!

Doo-dah, doo-dah.
grumble faint of butt beat me to it grumble
posted by eriko at 8:19 AM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The town of Manteca, California (meaning lard) was supposed to be called Monteca but there was supposedly a railroad ticket typo. (would be nice to find an older reference for this than the Manteca chamber of commerce website.)
posted by larrybob at 8:21 AM on June 18, 2013


I live right next to Four Mile Run - the trail there (which runs sort of parallel to the W&OD Trail in my neck of the woods) is a great place to walk. Unfortunately, it is still pretty much a storm sewer, and it can get really rank smelling in summer. When I first moved there, they used to release trout into the stream every summer, and it was great to see them hang out in eddies and to see kids fishing for them. Unfortunately, they lived mostly for the summer and would die at the end of the season - you'd see dead fish floating down the stream in the fall. I don't think they do that anymore, because the only fish there now are carp and bass as far as I can tell - and not that many of them.

Thanks for the links. I hadn't seen the film before, and that was interesting. I love to have the stream to walk by, and I hope they continue the restoration plans. (Self link: My Flickr set of Four Mile Run.)
posted by gemmy at 8:23 AM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you want to learn more about water quality at Four Mile Run, call them and they will fax you a ten-page technical report written entirely in comic sans.
posted by aw_yiss at 8:34 AM on June 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


If you want to learn more about water quality at Four Mile Run, call them and they will fax you a ten-page technical report written entirely in comic sans.

...

Meanwhile, I can't get job in the public sector.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:37 AM on June 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Meanwhile, I can't get job in the public sector.

It might be because I tend to leave a word out of things now and then, though.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:46 AM on June 18, 2013 [21 favorites]


In Ithaca, just south of town, there are two roads, named 5 Mile Drive and 7 Mile Drive. Neither one seemed to have the length indicated.

Turns out the reason for the names are that normally, you'd cross the flood-control canal that flows out of the south end of Cayuga Lake at State Street, but if that bridge was flooded, you went five miles out of your way to 5 Mile Drive. If the flooding was so bad that 5 Mile Drive was impassible, you drove seven miles out of your way on 7 Mile Drive.
posted by BrashTech at 9:13 AM on June 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


The town of Manteca, California (meaning lard) was supposed to be called Monteca but there was supposedly a railroad ticket typo.

I grew up 15 miles away from Manteca. That typo, and its connotations of unpleasqantness, was prescient. Things I do not miss from childhood: the smell of sugar refineries.
posted by psoas at 9:32 AM on June 18, 2013


Four Mile Run was in a lot better shape when I was a child; it ran much of the way beside a railroad right of way that had gone wild, so it traced along long banks of milkweed and butterflies. Then they punched I-66 through on the right of way (after a long fight to stop it), and it was squashed into a much narrower and run-off laden path.
posted by tavella at 9:53 AM on June 18, 2013


psoas: "That typo, and its connotations of unpleasqantness"

I'm on to you, buddy.
posted by boo_radley at 10:21 AM on June 18, 2013


Do you know what they call a four mile run in Paris?
posted by bukvich at 10:31 AM on June 18, 2013


Nine miles long, same as in town.
posted by a halcyon day at 10:36 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, I can't get job in the public sector.

It might be because I tend to leave a word out of things now and then, though.



Perhaps try public sector in Eastern European country? Is just fine there!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:42 AM on June 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, 6.4 Kilometre Run is really 14.5 km!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:44 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I spent my childhood in the 1960s playing in that creek (it was always just "the creek"), which was just behind our house. We built extensive waterworks with bricks and rocks: flood gates, waterfalls, etc. Then the next rainstorm would hit, and the creek would turn into a raging torrent and wipe it all out. Which was such a pity, because then we'd have to build a more elaborate version.

Just before we moved out of the area, they finally started building I-66, which destroyed it.
posted by Xoc at 10:50 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


This got me looking into how Eight Mile Road between Stockton and Lodi, California got its name: apparently it is eight miles from the center of Stockton. The road also serves as a boundary of the official viticultural area of Lodi (I guess they make good wine there now).
posted by exogenous at 11:05 AM on June 18, 2013


I have lived near Four Mile Run (in North Fairlington for the Arlingtonions out there) for over twenty years, and I always marvel at how underutilized it is. It's true that the waterway is lined with parkland on both sides, however, the park itself is also bounded on both sides by four lane roads. On one side of Four Mile Run, is Arlington Mill Road, and a lovely neighborhood, Shirlington, that has changed rapidly over the last twenty years, and is now a lively area with tons of restaurants, a library, a movie theater, live theater, boutique-type retail, a compact supermarket, and lots of (relatively) affordable housing stock. The other side of Four Mile Run, is bounded by Four Mile Run Drive, zoned for light industrial, and is lined with autoshops and storage places, and the kind of housing that you generally find near autoshops and storage places (although some of that is being redeveloped). Within the park itself, access to the water is limited. Then, Four Mile Run plunges into a concrete cave as it, er, runs under 395, which at that point is 8 lanes across (or ten depending on how you count) - when it comes out the other side, it really is just a concrete basin, all the way to the Potomac.

I can't help feeling that Four Mile Run is a huge missed opportunity. In Europe, this kind of urban water-frontage would be much more integrated and central to the urban landscape. There would be restaurants or cafes, and plazas with direct access to the water. There would be commerce and activity that would exist for, and take advantage of, the waterfront. I realize that we can't duplicate the organic development that occurred around flowing water in Europe as villages grow into market towns and then into cities, but Arlington has spent so much money on more dubious efforts (Crystal City), I can't understand why someone doesn't take Four Mile Run in hand and attempt a grander vision.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 11:07 AM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just before we moved out of the area, they finally started building I-66, which destroyed it.

It is true that I-66 and I-395 were responsible for the destruction not only of the free-flowing nature of Four Mile Run, but many, many neighborhoods. The construction of 395 cut a quarter-mile swath through the middle of my neighborhood, and divided it into North Fairlington and South Fairlington, connected by three overpasses.

However, nature finds a way, and the building of I-66 has had unintended consequences such as this, which is one of my favorite things in Arlington:

Ballston Pond

What started as a stormwater detention pond nestled in a cloverleaf, was coopted by a pair of industrious beavers, who refused to be ousted, and as a result have created an urban wetland where none was planned.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 11:14 AM on June 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Four Mile Run is Nine Miles Long

Symbolic in the Beltway ... it's just like what you get whenever you need to visit the government for something.
posted by Twang at 11:43 AM on June 18, 2013


Four Mile Run plunges into a concrete cave as it, er, runs under 395, which at that point is 8 lanes across (or ten depending on how you count) - when it comes out the other side, it really is just a concrete basin, all the way to the Potomac.

The bike path south of 395 and past the wastewater treatment plant (really) can be chock full of interesting wildlife -- egrets, great blue heron, osprey. Frogs and turtles. Surprisingly wide at this point and not channelized.
posted by PandaMomentum at 12:20 PM on June 18, 2013


Three Mile Island is not that long, either.
posted by MtDewd at 12:21 PM on June 18, 2013


I bicycle along 4 Mile Run as a connector between the Mt. Vernon trail and the W & OD. There are some gems along the way. The dog park is super well utilized with dogs happily prancing in the water. The community center is currently home to a little utility shed that houses Phoenix Bikes, a non-profit bike shop that trains youth in job skills. Some of the waterfront parks that are wedged in by industrial zones are deserted and scary. It seems like some of the fishermen in the creek are subsidizing their food budget there, which has raised worries about pollution.

Well crap, I guess the dog park and the fish are related: http://www.epa.gov/owow/nps/nps_edu/stopx3.html

In conclusion, Four Mile Run is a land of contrast.
posted by Skwirl at 1:02 PM on June 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


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