Friday, April 30, 2010

Where Did THAT Garden Come From?

New garden goes in at the yet-to-be-named park
Why, your friendly neighborhood volunteers installed it, of course.

Last Saturday, a team of over a dozen volunteers from Arlandria and surrounding neighborhoods came together and got started on a host of projects. This was the 2nd annual Arlandria Spring Clean-Up and Gardening Day!

The number one initiative was to install a large garden at the open space property at the corner of West Reed and Commonwealth Avenues, acquired by the City just last year. The garden came together using plants gleaned from backyard gardens, generously donated by local residents. In total, our generous neighbors contributed 13 shrubs, dozens of perennials, a sapling, and ornamental grasses... and there's at least one ornamental tree and a bunch of liriope yet to plant! So, for this coincidentally Earth Day weekend event, volunteers used donated plants, composted leaves from last Fall's leaf pick-up, and mulch from shredded Christmas trees. And all of it was hauled to the site in borrowed trucks. Sod removed from the site was used by some neighbors in their own backyards.

Volunteers were slowed but not deterred by ground that could double as concrete. While everyone went home in need of some Icy-Hot for their aching backs, they left with a sense of accomplishment. See the following progression of photos that take the park from weed patch to garden:

From an overgrown patch of grass...
Step 1: Gather the troops and begin removing the sod (the sod cutter is the red machine in the picture)

Step 2: Cut under the sod and roll it up
Step 3: Haul it away to clear the site

Step 4: Try like heck to make a hole in the rock-hard ground

Step 5: Mix in municipal composted leaves to bring some nutrients to the soil

Step 6: Plant donated shrubs in donated top-soil

Step 7: Repeat... repeat... repeat...

Step 8: Add a host of perennials

And you wind up with a 700 sqft patch of garden to be proud of.

Look for more enhancements to come.

Another task from Saturday was cleaning up the vacant lots on Mount Vernon Avenue that are slated to expand the 55-acre Four Mile Run park. The properties had been ignored by parks staff and were badly in need of a once over. While the majority of the team focused on the Reed Avenue garden, a second group weeded and re-mulched the garden at the entrance of 4MR, trimmed some out of control street trees, and cleaned up junk on the site.

Lastly, back at the Reed Avenue site, the haggard screening trees that used to block the power substation were thinned out for aesthetics and to prevent them from blocking a clear view for the police. Trees that were strangling each other now have some room to grow and thrive.

Once again, Campbell and Ferrara Garden Center in Annandale donated mulch to the cause. Home Depot also contributed enough to get about 20 bags of top-soil that will hopefully keep the new plants growing strong. Many thanks to the management of both establishments!

Many thanks to our generous neighbors, as well! Your donated plants made it all possible. Please continue to let us know if you have plants you're dividing or otherwise getting rid of. We'll continue to enhance our existing gardens and create new green spaces with whatever we get!

Lastly, thanks to the volunteers for all the backbreaking work. Future clean-ups to prep the site for a market will follow, so stay tuned. But this was a big step towards improving Arlandria open space.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Arlandria News Round-up: "Things to Do" Edition

Do Some Good
We're still looking for folks to help lead an effort this weekend to convert a former neighborhood electrical substation into a city park. Apropos of Earth Day, we'll be using entirely donated materials mostly gleaned from garden cast-offs (healthy plants no longer wanted by their owners). At the same time, we will be cleaning up some vacant lots that are slated to be used to expand the 55-acre Four Mile Run park as part of a process to re-purpose the vacant paint store into an environmental education and arts center and a future home for an urban farmer's market. The site prep will include using municipal mulch recycled from leaves and Christmas trees and hauled to the site in a borrowed truck. The earthiest an Earth Day can get.

Join in this Saturday morning from 9am to 2pm. We'll be meeting up a 4109 Mount Vernon Avenue and moving on from there to other sites including the future park at the corner of Commonwealth & Reed Avenues. Bring tools and gloves.

Buy Some Plants and Plant Them
The Parkfairfax Native Plant Sale is THIS Saturday, April 24, from 9am to 2pm. It's the biggest the sale has ever been, with 14 vendors coming in from five states! The sale will take place rain or shine at 3601 Valley Drive. (By the way, native plants are especially great for community gardening projects at future neighborhood parks. Just saying, not begging.)

Buy Someone Else's Stuff
The Mount Vernon Community School's Big Flea will be held on Saturday, April 24th at the Mount Vernon Community Center at 2701 Commonwealth Avenue:
8:00am – Early Admission ($10 entry fee), 9:00am – General Admission (free)
12noon – Everything 50% off, 2:00pm – Everything FREE

Learn Some
For those who like their Earth Day to be more passive, the City of Alexandria's Earth Day celebration is once again being held in Ben Brenman Park also on Saturday April 24h from 10am to 2pm after having been moved from Four Mile Run Park a few years ago. Performances and fun stuff to learn about...a great place to take a break after the morning's work.

Read Some
Do you know about the day when elephants ran loose in Arlandria? It all goes back to when Four Mile Run park was the home of one of the world famous Luna Parks.  The Washington Post has the story.

Run Some
The Crystal City BID is asking folks to don a LITTLE RED DRESS for the April 23rd 5K Fridays race. Honoring the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, they're hoping everyone will join in the fun while looking extra  fashionable for the nearby run. Prizes will go to the best dressed male and female and to the fastest male and female in a red dress.

Ride Some
Alexandria installed the region's first bike box at the corner of Mount Vernon and Commonwealth Avenues , in what the Washington Area Bicyclist Association believes is the region's first bike box. Coincidentally, Arlington County has been actively repaving the Four Mile Run trail.  If all that gets you in the mood to hop on a bike, this excerpt from CBS' Morning Show has a brief overview on what's good in the bike market nowadays.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Eat Some
More than 20 area restaurants offer their finest tastings at Alexandria’s best family fun event: the 8th Annual Carpenter’s Cook-Off for food, fun and great live music as we raise money to support homeless children and families. This Sunday, April 25th from noon until 3pm at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Avenue

Win a Prize
"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." -Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hume Springs Clean-Up and Community Police Team-Up

First off, many thanks to everyone that came out and helped during the Hume Springs clean-up last Saturday.  That list includes Fire Marshall Javelle and our local Community Oriented Police Officers (Officers Nick Ruggiero and Matt Kramarik).  Last but not least, a big thank you to our local Sheriff's Department.  On Friday, the Sheriff's Department brought out an inmate work-crew to give residents a huge jump start to the clean-up by sweeping through the alleys with trash bags and week whackers in tow.  Getting the alleys out of the way enabled everyone to get even more done during the Saturday clean-up.

Down at the end of Hume Springs Stream (let's see if that sticks), in an unrelated event, several teams were cleaning up Four Mile Run.  Meanwhile, as part of the Hume Springs clean-up, volunteers did a healthy one-over on neighborhood streets, parks, and the wetlands area that backs up to Cora Kelly Elementary School.

It was during a trash sweep of the wetlands area that the volunteers identified a major drinking and drug-use hideout back in the woods.  The following pictures show the state of things after numerous trash bags full of bottles had already been hauled away:

The area is one of few dry spots of land back in the wetlands--a small clearing with plenty of logs to sit on.  Volunteers found general trash, alcohol bottles, a prisoner id, and what appeared to be some drug use paraphernalia.

Problem Hang Out is located near the center of these trees: View Larger Map

This new drinking hangout appeared to be a case of "displacement", as Officer Ruggiero pointed out.  Last fall, a Hume Springs clean-up uncovered a less hidden drinking spot that became a target for daily police sweeps, resulting in numerous arrests and getting people in need of social services in touch with those agencies (that story here).  Sadly, it appears people looking for a place to drink in our neighborhood found another, more hidden place to break the law.

Not for long, if current progress is an indicator or future results.  On Monday, officers swept this new location and made 4 arrests in the middle of the day for drinking in public.  From now on, this whole area will become a regular "beat check" for local officers, with the help of our Community Oriented Police.  Furthermore, the Community Officers intend to work with the Parks Department to get the logs cut up and removed, and intend to post No Trespassing signs around the wetlands area so they can enforce the trespassing rules, as well.  This is another testament to the importance of community policing.  Area assaults and robberies often start with public drinking, and nipping these problems in the bud make Arlandria a safer place for everyone.

Team hoists a sleeper sofa pulled out of the stream
On the day, neighbors were able to remove downed limbs, 20+ bags of trash, a sleeper sofa, a mattress, and large amounts of other loose debris from Four Mile Run Park and Hume Spings before lunchtime.  The Hume Springs Citizens Association also provided numerous flats of annuals and gave them away to any neighbors looking to spruce up their yard.  New neighbors and long-time residents teamed up to make the day a big success.  The hangout discovered on Saturday will hopefully lead to continued success cleaning up more than just a trash problem in the days and weeks to follow.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Arlandria News Round-up: Four Mile Run Edition

The Results Are In
We have a winner in the Four Mile Run Bridge design competition! The winning design (pictured) by the team consisting of the firms Arup (Engineers), Grimshaw (Architects) & Scape (Landscape Designers) was announced on Saturday, March 27th at the George Washington Masonic Memorial following a day of presentation by all three finalist teams. In the near future, The Arlandrian will feature a review of all three very worthy finalist designs.  But for those who can't wait, the presentations made by the three teams are all now available online at the competition website:

Taking The Trash Out of the Run
The 22nd Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup organized by the Alice Ferguson Foundation is coming to clean up the Four Mile Run Stream on Saturday, April 10th from 9am till Noon. There are currently two sites for volunteers: Four Mile Run at Mt. Vernon Avenue and the Eaton Square Clubhouse at 801 Four Mile Road.

Tidying Up Hume Springs
Neighbors in Hume Springs will be holding their own clean-up on Saturday as well.  Folks will be gardening and removing litter from 9am until 1pm.

Clean Up After Yourself
Since last Sunday, the Alexandria Police Department has been increasing enforcement of already existing litter laws throughout the City as part of the third annual Litter Enforcement Week that is taking place from April 4th to 10th. Litter Enforcement Week is part of the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, a region-wide effort spearheaded by the Alice Ferguson Foundation to reduce trash and litter, increase recycling, education, and awareness of trash issues in the Potomac Watershed.  See: for more info.

Taking a Taxi to the Airport on Four Mile Run

A proposed water taxi service has begun promoting itself recently under the name American River Taxi. Their initial plans include a number of stops along the Potomac in Old Town, Georgetown, Southwest and National Harbor.  Future plans include a potential stop at National Airport.  The airport stop would presumably be at the mouth of Four Mile Run near the economy parking and the shuttle bus stops and the intersection of the Four Mile Run and Mt Vernon trails.

Take the Four Mile Run to 5k Fridays
The Crystal City Business Improvement District, which promotes a lot of fun activities right in our backyard, is sponsoring 5k Fridays. Every Friday in April at 6:30pm, participants will run a professionally timed and certified course organized by Pacers Running Stores. Every race starts and finishes at 2121 Crystal Drive. Just a short walk to a quick run.

Here Come The Arlandria Aces!
Collegiate summer baseball season is just around the corner. Soon Arlandria's Frank Mann Field in Four Mile Run Park will play host once again to the Aces. Until then, here's a short video presentation about the Aces to entertain baseball fans (who may not see much entertaining baseball in the Metro area for a while):

Alexandria Aces from The Other Sports Show on Vimeo

Wildlife Returns to Four Mile Run
With the spring weather, noticeable signs of life have returned to Four Mile Run. And a good sign it is; demonstrating the strengthening health of the stream.

Acres of Diamonds in Our Own Backyard
The 55.9 acres of Four Mile Run Park often go overlooked. It might be a place that folks where folks may take a jog or a bike ride, where folks may see a baseball game or play soccer, but it is not well regarded for its natural beauty.  It's there though if you look for it. And well worth fighting for: