Restoration Project Adds Art to Popular Public Trail

Sculpture, decorative fencing and watermarks highlight a newly expanded treatment plant and a popular streamside trail.

Restoration Project Adds Art to Popular Public Trail

The Arlington County plant staff includes, standing, from left, Frank Corsoro, operations manager; Kofi Antwi, operations specialist; Zahid Yousaf, operations shift supervisor; Lisa Cunningham, laboratory manager; Tes Tesfamarian, operator; Mary Strawn, chief engineer; and Jonathan Jennings and Chris Hawthorne, operators. Front, kneeling, George DeAtely, operator.

The water pollution control plant in Arlington, Virginia, is less than half a mile from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and across the street from a residential neighborhood.

The entire back side of the 40 mgd advanced treatment facility is bordered by a stream called Four Mile Run. Between the stream and the plant fence is a trail that interconnects with other trails along the stream to form a 9-mile route enjoyed by pedestrians and bikers.

“The trail is really popular and heavily used,” says Tom Broderick, water pollution control bureau chief. A ribbon-cutting in September 2017 celebrated completion of a major restoration project on more than 2 miles of the stream and unveiled elements of public art that were the water plant’s contribution to the restoration.

High-quality fencing

Named Ripple to reflect the plant’s function, the work includes more than 800 feet of a black powder-coated security fence, enhanced with hundreds of brightly colored objects made of galvanized powder-coated metal. Held to the fence with stainless steel clamps, the objects in various shapes and forms suggest microorganisms that are part of the treatment process. Some are wrench-like. A sign on the fence calls the art “an interpretation of tools and methods.”

“It is meant to represent the process in a sequential order from pretreatment to advanced wastewater treatment as one walks or rides along the path,” Broderick says. The irregular 7-foot-tall fence had bent and angular sections that present an illusion of water flowing. It replaced a standard chain-link fence and was part of a $568 million plant upgrade completed in 2012.

Created by Dutch artists Tejo Remy and Rene Veenhuizen, Ripple was installed in 2015, along with a 33-foot-long and 6-foot-wide sculpture-like bench that sits along the bike trail. Made with a shaped, powder-coated steel frame and acetylated, sustainable wood, the wave-shaped form of the bench also suggests water flow. “Each piece of art was designed to enhance the fence and serve as a community landmark and gathering place,” Broderick says.

Trail features

A third element of public art was designed by Virginia-based landscape architect Julie Bargmann. Fourteen watermarks made of 4-foot-wide, skid-resistant thermoplastic vinyl are imbedded across the 11-foot width of asphalt trail. The interval of each watermark corresponds to the location of outfall pipes under the trail that lead to Four Mile Run stream from each nearby residential neighborhood.

Imprinted on the border of each watermark are the common and scientific names of fish that inhabit the stream. A banner across the middle of each watermark reads, “Every fish wants a healthy stream.”

The Four Mile Run restoration project was a joint venture of residents and staff from Arlington, the City of Alexandria, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and congressional representatives. They laid out a plan to fund and restore the stream banks, replace riprap with living shorelines, restore tidal wetlands, and rebuild the multiuse trail. Public art was part of the plan.

“I think it was an appropriate level of investment on our part,” Broderick says. “It adds something to the community and allows passersby to give a little thought to what goes on behind the fence. I think that’s a good thing.”


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