College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Landscape Architecture

MLA Student Dylan Reilly: Riverwalk plans take shape

From "The Coalfield Press"
Landscape architect Dylan Reilly envisions the entrance featuring a sign possibly made of or mimicking Gladeville sandstone, along with a trail kiosk and exercise station.

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.

Caption: This is how a bridge crossing the river near the highway cloverleaf might look, along with educational signs and fishing access.

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).

Caption: Near the former coal tipple site could be a multi-use shelter for outdoor classrooms, along with signs explaining local coal history. 
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.

Caption: This is one sample of how a trail section might look, providing options to people with varying degrees of mobility.


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.

Caption: This map shows the proposed first phase of the trail, which eventually would extend to Ramsey.

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.

Also, the trail will include exercise stations, public health programs and displays illustrating research on local wildlife, plants, weather and water quality, Reilly explained. Landscaping will be done to create natural drama for walkers and cyclists, along with restoring wildlife habitat.

Water fountains and restrooms will be installed.

There will be an emergency access point along the trail that leads to a nearby outpatient clinic.

The trail will be accessible to people with disabilities, Reilly noted. That will provide some small challenges because there’s a 20-foot change in elevation from the elementary school to Seneca Lane, where the trail will run east of the river, he added.

The trail project will create limestone ponds to passively treat acid mine drainage, according to Reilly.

The trail is proposed to have three river crossings, including two in the first phase. Those will be among the most costly sections to complete, Reilly said. At a bridge slightly east of the U.S. 23/58A intersection, there would be a fishing area with disabled access, a science education station, a sign describing common local river animals and more.


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