College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Plant Science & Landscape Architecture

Riverwalk plans take shape

JEFF LESTER • NEWS EDITOR May 9, 2017 Updated May 9, 2017

NORTON — An update to city council from the designer of Norton’s proposed riverwalk could not have been better timed.

Landscape design master’s degree candidate Dylan Reilly gave council its second look at riverwalk plans May 2, one day after Congress unveiled a short-term federal funding package that includes new dollars aimed at just such projects.

City administration, Reilly and the Appalachian Voices regional environmental and community development advocacy group were pleased to learn that the riverwalk and other local projects could get a boost in the budget (see related story, page 3).

The spending package that funds the federal government through September includes $10 million for Virginia to participate in a pilot program that will help pay for abandoned mine land reclamation projects aimed at economic and community development future use, officials learned last week. The riverwalk might qualify for a piece of that funding.

Reilly, who first presented riverwalk plans to council last August, estimates the project could cost nearly $531,700, including $100,000-$300,000 for abandoned mine land remediation.

PHASE ONE

Reilly, a University of Maryland student, chose the Norton riverwalk as his master’s thesis project. On May 2, he gave city council the same presentation he made in pursuit of his degree.

Reilly’s design plans come at no cost to the city.

He described his concept for phase one of the riverwalk, which would begin near the city community center and extend along the Guest River to the proposed “Teasley” trailhead roughly midway to the Ramsey community.

The design takes advantage of a sewer project easement that created an open space with the potential for great beauty that is just asking to be put to use, Reilly said. Plans call for increasing green recreation space while helping to tell the story of how the region’s coal heritage has changed over time.

An overall main objective is to create a safe walking space from Norton Elementary School to Ramsey.

At the phase one entrance, Reilly noted, he envisions a sign making use of new downtown revitalization branding concepts that the city is considering. Also, there’s a nearby outcropping of Gladeville sandstone that creates potential to educate students about the region’s geology and an often-used local building material.

Along the trail, Reilly envisions seating benches, signs and other furnishings with a rugged industrial-looking design that helps reflect the site’s former use for coal processing.

The site of a former coal tipple could become a space for various displays that illustrate that facility’s history, including an outdoor classroom.

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