Arlington County and the City of Alexandria have a long shared history along the Four Mile Run corridor, particularly the lower 2.3-mile stretch, which runs from Shirlington Road to the stream’s mouth near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. During the 1960s and 1970s, that reach was subjected to multiple significant flooding events as the watershed became more urbanized.
Although the engineered 2.3-mile channel has been successful in the area of flood control, that reach subsequently has lost many of its natural and aesthetically pleasing characteristics. The maintenance requirements for the channel have resulted in the loss of vegetation. In addition, the trapezoidal shape of the channel does not offer the riffles, pools, and shady areas needed to sustain aquatic life.
The last component to join the work group was Don Waye, then the staff member at NVRC in charge of monitoring Four Mile Run. Waye indicated that a significant quantity of data related to Four Mile Run had been developed since the 1970's flood control project. He suggested that a formal study may show that changes to the Four Mile Run channel, which could improve the stream’s water quality and recreational potential, are possible without reducing the level of flood protection that has existed for the last 30 years.
The first efforts to implement the master plan focus on a demonstration project that includes both environmental improvements and urban components between Mt. Vernon Avenue and US Route 1. A Federal State and Tribal Grant (STAG) matched with local monies will provide funding for the environmental components. Additionally, the work group recently applied for a Transportation Enhancement Grant. If the grant is awarded, the group will use the funds to develop a signature pedestrian-cyclist bridge linking Commonwealth Avenue in Alexandria to South Eads Street in Arlington.