Creativity wasn't wasted in naming many of the 2,400 miles of Fairfax County roads: There are 105 variations of Oak Street, 27 versions of Cedar Lane and a multitude of Maple, Poplar and Pine streets.
Tree names, in fact, are so prevalent that Fairfax County Board Supervisor Kate Hanley (D-Providence) recently remarked that instead of a "million Oak Streets, I think we should name one 'Elm's Disease.' "
Basically, whoever builds a road gets to name it. Since most of the residential streets in the county were built by private developers, they are responsible for the likes of Blowing Rock Road, Batter Sea Lane and Bleeding Heart Drive.
Recently the county has gotten tough on duplicate street names -- or even names that sound alike -- because of potential confusion for fire and rescue crews, as well as the U.S. Postal Service and delivery companies.
"We've also turned names down that we thought would be too hard to pronounce for a child" who might be dialing 911 in an emergency, said James L. Colton, chief of the Technical Support Branch of the Fairfax County Department of Environmental Management.
With about 240 new residential projects a year in Fairfax -- with anywhere from one to 50 new streets in each -- some developers and their staffs find it so difficult to come up with simple, original names that when they do, they quickly reserve them in case anyone else swipes them before the pavement is poured.
There are more than 400 names on the county's street name reserve list, including Thor Drive and Fox Fire Road. Surprisingly, Thomas Jefferson Drive has not been used but is now reserved. There is a county street named after Thomas Edison.
At Hazel-Peterson Companies, a development firm that has built numerous subdivisions and residential projects in Fairfax, the process of coming up with names isn't necessarily methodical.
Sometimes planners brainstorm together, thinking about thematic or clever ways to name a new grouping of streets. Other times, it is far less precise, as it was recently when the secretary of the company's planning department, Brownie J. Bartley, offered her suggestion for the Union Mills project near Centreville.
"How about Ruddy Duck?" she said.
"We could do all kinds of waterfowl," she continued, after encouragement.
And so it will be. Ruffled Grouse Way, Gosling Drive, Mallard Watch Way and Wild Turkey Court were swiftly approved by the county, along with other Bartley names for Union Mills.
"I used to think someone in the county was sitting there naming all the streets; I was sure of it," Bartley said. "But it's not that way at all. I was thinking the other day that someday I'll be driving around with my grandchildren and tell them, 'Hey, Grandma named some of these streets.' "
Often developers or their staffs give names that are somehow connected or indicative of the area, thus the preponderance of historical, tree and wildlife names.
Union Mills, however, doesn't even have a pond. Bartley just liked the waterfowl theme, she said, perhaps because her husband is a duck hunter.
"It's surprising how hard it is to come up with a new name. You want something catchy. Something that sounds good," said Bartley, now launched on her next naming project. "Basically, all the one-syllable names -- the addresses that are easiest to remember and write -- are already taken."
It wasn't always this complicated. Years ago, when the county was sparsely settled, roads earned their names through common usage, according to Elizabeth S. David, Fairfax County historic preservation planner.
Telegraph Road was referred to as such because the first telegraph lines were there, David said. Lawyers Road won its moniker from being the main road to the first county courthouse, located in what is now Tysons Corner.
Many roads, David said, earned their names as a result of their destinations. Georgetown Pike linked part of the county to Georgetown. Chain Bridge Road led from the Occoquan area to the Chain Bridge over the Potomac. Leesburg Pike was the main path from Alexandria to Leesburg, and Little River Turnpike headed to the Little River in Aldie, also in Loudoun County.
But common usage would not work now, according to Colton, who keeps the reserve list of street names in his computer. People are very particular about the name of the street they live on. Once in a while, the Board of Supervisors is asked to change a street name -- a petition requires 51 percent of the residents of the affected street -- but changes are rare. "People are very sensitive about their street names," Colton said. "I guess it's an identity to them."