Friday, August 22, 2014

The mystery of Indian Spring's gravel streets

Here's a topic I've been meaning to write about for a while: the gravel streets in the Indian Spring neighborhood.

I have been curious about these streets ever since I was a little kid, when I would go to the adjacent "fire engine park" regularly (side note: every park should have one of those jungle gym fire engines).  The two streets are signed as Long Branch Parkway and Biltmore Drive, and the gravel sections are one block south of East Franklin Avenue next to the headwaters of Long Branch Creek and the synonymous park.  The streets are next to each other, and they almost connect at their respective dead ends.  Seven homes directly front these gravel roads.


I know the answers to many things Four Corners, but this one stumps me.  I do not know a reason why these two sections of street are unpaved.  However, I have several theories as to why these roads are the way they are.

My first guess was that perhaps these two blocks are just alleys, and therefore do not require a paved surface.  However, these two blocks have several homes facing these gravel streets, something alleys do not usually have.  These streets also have normal names and street signs, which is something else that alleys often lack.  Even if these are alleys, one would think that the surface should be paved since there are multiple homes fronting each road.


The 9300 block of Biltmore Drive.  Photo by the author. 

I have also considered that these roads might be some sort of private road or communal driveway, but there are things that discount this idea almost immediately.  These streets are definitely named and recognized by the county, as they have street signs at their connections with the adjacent paved roads, and the addressing system recognizes these two streets as unique blocks (9300 block of Biltmore Drive and 9400 block of Long Branch Parkway, respectively).  These two streets also have utility poles with Pepco pole numbers, as well as curbside county trash pickup (as seen in photo above).  I doubt a private driveway would have any of these pieces of public infrastructure.

9400 block of Long Branch Parkway.  This street it more "alley-like" than it's neighbor, Biltmore Drive, but it also has homes fronting it and it's own unique name and addresses.  Photo by the author.

My third theory is that these streets were left unpaved for some environmental reason.  The two roads are very close to Long Branch, but they are no more so than other nearby streets.  While pervious gravel is better for urban run-off than impervious asphalt, gravel has it's own issues.  A gravel surface can become eroded during heavy rains, which can lead to large amounts of sediment, which is known to chock waterways and negatively affect wildlife.  These streets also appear to unpaved as far back as 1957, a time when few people cared about issues like urban run-off, so it's unlikely that environmental concerns were a reason for leaving these streets unpaved back then.

After eliminating all those previous theories, the only one that remains is that these streets were left unpaved due to some sort of dispute between the developer of these parcels and the county.

When a developer builds a subdivision like this, they are often responsible for building the infrastructure themselves before turning it over to the county for future maintenance.  The developer of this tract may have run out of money to pave the streets and build the associated stormwater management infrastructure (curbs, drainage pipes, etc).  When the developer gave the new roads to the county, the county may have refused to pave the streets since it was a cost that the developer was supposed to cover, meaning the streets never got paved.

Intersection of Long Branch Parkway, Dearborn Avenue, and Seminole Street depicting the beginning of the unpaved block of Long Branch Parkeay.  Photo by the author.

I do not have any information to confirm that last theory, but to me it seems like the most logical explanation for these unpaved streets.  Anyone who lives in Indian Spring or elsewhere is welcome to chime in with what they think is (or know to be) the explanation for these quirky streets.            

1 comment:

  1. Great post. This is right around the corner from my house. I've always wondered this myself.

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