Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Arlandrian Brief: Variable Weather Edition


A brief summary of recent postings from The Arlandrian:

Door To Door on WAMU: Arlandria, Va.

Here's a little bitty ditty about Arlandria that played today on WAMU...

 Listen to the story here or check out the version on the station's website: Door To Door: NOMA, D.C. and Arlandria, Va.

Tales of an Arlandria Twitcher

Juv_BCNH_Four Mile Run Park_JAN 2013
Juvenile Black-Crowned Night-Heron 
in Four Mile Run stream

Season 1, Episode 1
By Jake Cuomo

In this column I'll focus on the birds that inhabit our local Arlandria parks, where they are and how to find them.

Quick confession and full disclosure:  Kevin asked me to write him a story on this topic last year but I had recently begun this hobby of birding and I didn't feel all that comfortable giving others advice on the topic. Frankly, I'm still not completely comfortable with it but I spend enough time up to my ankles in glunge in Four Mile Run Park to let you know what I've seen in there lately so I'll take a stab at it.

From the bird "hobby" manifested itself less like a hobby and more like a drug addiction (from what I can gather from those shows that you see on TV). The first time I cracked open a field guide and laid eyes on a Pileated Woodpecker and then checked their range map and discovered that they live in our region I knew that I had to try to go and find one. Find one I did on a cold January day on Teddy Roosevelt Island, in fact. I found another few minutes after I found the first after I nearly tripped over it feeding on insects in a downed tree alongside the trail.  After that time I spent nearly every waking moment reading through field guides, old copies of Audubon magazine and anything bird-related that I could get my hands on. I was definitely hooked.

Belted Kingfisher
My point here in all of this is to say that since that time I've been going full throttle--much to the dismay of my gorgeous wife. Only a birder can understand why on a perfectly good Saturday morning I get up at five o'clock and get dressed to face a 24 degree day to maybe, just maybe, get a chance to lay my eyes on that once in a lifetime bird down at Dyke Marsh or Huntley Meadows--99% of the time that doesn't happen--but it's that 1% that keeps you going. (I'm a golfer too so I can relate to those that say it's the good shots that keep you going...but I digress).

So now back to Arlandria, that is why Kevin asked me to write this column after all.

Some may think that winter would be a dull time to go and look for birds, particularly in the mid-Atlantic or northerly region of the country where we can receive snow, sleet, ice and freezing rain. But, you may be surprised to discover just how many of our avian friends tough it out over the winter around here and how easy it is to locate them if you know where to look.

First, winter is the ideal time for a novice birder to get out there and start searching. The trees are bare and the grass is low so the birds have less places in which to hide.

Second, there aren't any bugs to discourage you from getting out there--there are few things worse than locating your first summertime Green Heron only to be interrupted by the sting of a blood-laden mosquito. (You won't have that issue this time of the year. So get out there!)

Finally, many waterfowl relocate from their more northern ranges and come down to our area to spend the winter so this time of year is a great time to see a wide variety of ducks--especially along the Potomac River.

Great Blue Heron
So finally, Jake, what have you been seeing out there?
Ok, ok, here I go.

Since the beginning of the year I've seen several interesting species right here in Arlandria.  There's a pair of Black-Crowned Night-Herons calling Four Mile Run Park home for the winter but you'll have to go to the back side small stream along where the Alexandria Aces play to see them.

Go up on the small bridge that crosses the stream and look towards the Four Mile Run, you'll normally see the two of them down in there, one is an adult, the other is a juvenile. Also, we have a few residents that you're sure to see if you spend any amount of time in the park.  Several Great Blue Herons are almost always present as well as a male Belted Kingfisher that likes to fly up and down the stream between Mount Vernon Avenue and Route 1. He'll be easy to find by the loud rattling noise that he constantly makes.

Cooper's Hawk in my backyard near 4MR Park.
There are also plenty of birds of prey to find in the park including Cooper's Hawks, Red-Tailed and Red-Shouldered Hawks,  as well as the occasional Sharp-Shinned Hawk or Bald Eagle. Several species of sparrow are also always present alongside the stream including: Song, White-Throated and Swamp.

Since I've been birding here I've constantly been surprised by what I find in the park on any given day, heck, one day I was out birding and I ran across a fox den with three fox cubs just dancing about in the woods oblivious to the fact that I was even there, I decided to make a hasty exit lest I prompt an inspection from the den mother.

My point here is that you never know what you'll find in the park so dust off your binoculars and get out there!

Happy Birding! Jake



In addition to his side-line as a naturalist, Jake Cuomo is an all around neighborhood good guy organizing stream clean-ups of the Four Mile Run, initiating community tree plantings on Earth Day, helping build the new Commonwealth Park on Reed Avenue and the Four Mile Run Park Expansion. Jake is the winner of the 2012 Alexandria Beautification Award, along with his wife, Erin. 

Jake also serves currently as President of the Hume Spring Citizens Association. 

Look for more of his posts about wildlife in the future on The Arlandrian.

The Station Location Recommendation Debation

The three Potomac Yard Metro Station
altenatives being considered.

WTOP reported on the update this week regarding the Environmental Impact Study for the potential Metro Station in Potomac Yard (Metro ideas rolling for Potomac Yard).

While their article doesn't go into great detail about all of the nuances and exhaustive analysis being rumenated by the City, the article embeds the presentation made to City Council which provides a lot more insight into the multi-year process.

What's presented is not yet the full cost-benefit analysis yet. It doesn't,for instance, yet compare the the construction costs of the alternatives...or rather the the financing analysis of the 3 alternatives,, since the eventual location may dictate exactly how the station is financed, who all exactly bear the costs and how much is their share. Instead, this update examines the potential benefits of each locations and evaluates some of the indirect other costs of each alternative so a final decision can be made next year weighing all the alternatives against each other in a (hopefully) rational way.

Gauging visual impact from trial baloons
Even so, what is shaping up is that any of the options are clearly going to be better than "no build" (not doing anything at all). And the two alternative (B and D) more accessible to Arlandria are shown to also generate more eventual revenue. However, they also will each have a bigger impact on the GW Parkway: they'll have the temporary impact during construction, and they'll a visual impact on it (you'll be able to see them). Trial balloons were set off (literally) to gauge this impact and artistic renderings have been devised to show it. The analysis suggests that the view will be minimal, perhaps inconsequential, but the final decision will have to be eventually made about that.

From our reading of the report, most of the negative impacts of any station are equal or smaller than doing nothing at all. Traffic will increase regardless, maybe more if we don't provide the transit option. Still, even without transit, the analysis predicts something important to realize: 34% of car trips generated by Potomac Yard in general will be on East/West Glebe. Arlandrians haven't yet had a chance to hear how this traffic might be we can continue to work toward making our community walkable but we expect that in the coming months. And one thing is sorely missing: They didn't look at the impact on Reed Avenue.

The bottom line is that it's shaping up to a matter of whether the better locations generate enough additional revenue or not...and whether their impact on the parkway is worth anything.

(Nope, we didn't make it up: DEBATION. But that doesn't make it right. We apologize. Tee-hee.)

Related post from The Arlandrian:

Kennedy Center meets Potomac Yard

An alert reader of the Arlandrian sent the following:

"Even the Kennedy Center is redeveloping its waterfront. When are we getting deck dining on Four Mile Run?"

Sounds funny, but we think that the Kennedy Center folks may have been looking over our collective shoulders at the Four Mile Restoration Plan, because this is exactly what might happen when north Potomac Yard redevelops. 

A conceptual view of how
the old railroad bridge might be used.
Building on the Four Mile Run Plan, the North Potomac Yard Plan calls for a good deal of park investment along the Alexandria edge of Four Mile Run there. A fairly big park and a re-use of one of the two remaining un-used railroad bridges. One bridge will be brought down to daylight the Run (in the next year or so), but the other will be....something. 

And, by the way, the electrical substation may be decommissioned and integrated with the other near the waste-water treatment plant. Some powerlines will be under-grounded and some of the "headwires" towers will come down. More news to come.
"This Plan assists in the implementation of the Four Mile Run Master Plan by requiring Crescent Park and improvements next to Four Mile Run, which are intended to provide wide range of opportunities, both active and passive, and include opportunities for a gathering and event space. Amenities should be provided on both sides of Four Mile Run and on the existing approximately 1-acre pedestrian bridge, which will connect to Crescent Park and Landbay K beyond, providing a series of spaces for a variety of interests which celebrate the connection to the water and natural environment.
The park should be designed as a regional amenity for users of all ages and abilities, and will provide active and passive recreational amenities for future residents and visitors. The park will be designed to incorporate interpretive elements of the multi-century transportation history of this corridor."
So, congratulations Kennedy Center on having the vision to follow our lead.

Related articles from The Arlandrian:

The Slow Drip from the Sewage Flood

The recovery effort during
the sewage backup ( has just teased out a little more information about the hold-up in re-opening of the Potomac Yard Harris Teeter (Board Discusses Harris Teeter ‘Claims’ in Closed Session).

The store shuttered last Spring because of a malfunction in Arlington sewer system has stated that are looking for "re-assurances" before reopening. As of last month no suits had been filed according to Arlington County staff, but at last night's County Board meeting, the governing body adjourned to executive session to review “two matters requiring consultation with the County Attorney and staff concerning pending claims made by Harris Teeter and others, arising from an incident on May 11, 2012.”

There's still no news on when (or if) the Harris Teeter will reopen, but it's also clear that something is happening between the company and the County.

Four Mile Run Park is for the birds!

There's a lot of great wildlife just around the corner. Got a birding shot? Send it and we'll share it.

Here's a Juvenile Black-Crowned Night-Heron spotted along Four Mile Run:
Juv_BCNH_Four Mile Run Park_JAN 2013
Photo by Jacob Cuomo

The new park in Potomac Yard

Photo of Potomac Yard linear park
from the Del Ray Patch (by Drew Hansen)
Drew Hansen of the Del Ray Patch has an update about the park developing along the eastern edge of Potomac Yard "Potomac Yard Park Playground Taking Shape - Del Ray, VA Patch.

"Connected by a lighted, 1.5-mile multi-use trailfrom Target to Braddock Road Metro station, the park will house its amenities in several “belvederes” or urban plazas located where the development’s streets dead-end into the rail tracks to the east. Each belvedere will contain a different amenity...
Land Planning and Design Associates, the firm behind the park, has detailed renderings of the park on its website."
Check at Drew's fantastic pictures on the Patch.

Wintertime and the fishing is easy.

Dozens of fishermen along the banks of Four Mile Run this afternoon. And the trails are packed for this mid-winter weather break.

Parking Changes Proposed for Schools, Recreational Facilities reports on an effort to re-evaluate parking requirement at public facilities in Arlington County (Parking Changes Proposed for Schools, Recreational Facilities):

"County staff members are recommending adding amendments to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance that would affect parking at public pools and at elementary and middle schools."

At issue is how much asphalt should take up park and public space. Arlington County Schools balked at parking-heavy requirements when they sought to renovate and expand over-crowded and out-moded buildings. Now the County Parks department always is wondering how much park space should be devoted to cars.

The answer might be: it depends. The County is looking at whether parking demands and requirements might vary from site to site. And they will be considering whether less lesser parking spaces will be sufficient in some instances where cars won't overwhelm nearby neighborhoods.

That's the question the County will be evaluating over the coming months.

Where does that trail go?

The updated Alexandria bike map is here! The map includes on and off-street bikeways, Capital Bikeshare stations, safety tips, useful phone numbers and resources, and more.

To obtain a printed copy, stop by your local bike shop, the Old Town Transit Shop, City Hall, or any  recreation centers. The map is free!

(Download Map SideDownload Cover Side)

Neighboring Jurisdiction Maps & Resources
Ride the City DC Metro edition (on-line bicycle-route finding website)
District of Columbia Department of Transportation
Fairfax County
Arlington County
Commuter Connections
WashCycle Area Bike Map
Bicycle Trails in Virginia

Yesterday's Sunset

We've been having more than our share of dark gloomy days and this past weekends beautiful weather sure turned to something a lot chillier. But when it did, it granted us a wonderful light show as the holiday came to a close.

Crystal City Plan Wins National Planning Award

A conceptual design of the intersection of
S. Hayes St. and S. 12th St. in Pentagon City, 

When BRAC hit Arlington County, they began a process to evaluate the changes coming to the Crystal City area. A city task force initiated the Crystal City Sector Plan, a long-range vision that will guide development descisions over the next 30 years.

Last week the American Planning Association awarded that plan the 2013 National Planning Achievement Award for Innovation in Economic Planning and Development:

"The Crystal City Sector Plan provides a planning roadmap for transforming Crystal City into a more complete, vibrant, walkable and transit-oriented neighborhood. Among the improvements planned for Crystal City are a streetcar line along the Route 1 corridor that will run from the Pentagon City Metrorail station through Crystal City to Potomac Yard; buildings up to 300 feet tall in strategic areas; 7,500 new homes; the transformation of Jefferson Davis Highway into an urban boulevard linking Crystal City’s east and west neighborhoods; ground floor retail stores and improved design and quality for public open spaces.
The 40-year long-range plan is a pioneer in the use of economic analysis for planning purposes. It also is among the first of its kind to closely study the economics of demolishing and replacing major commercial buildings. Its economic findings led to an infrastructure finance plan addressing costs and estimating increasingly substantial tax yields anticipated in the coming decades."

For more about the Crystal City (and Pentagon City) Plans, check out:

Or check out this interview with Arlington County Board Member Chris Zimmerman:
Arlington's Crystal City Plan Wins 2013 National Planning Achievement Award - Arlington Economic Development

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