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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2015 / 03 

Episode 8 of Save Our Towns showcases student work in St. Paul, high-speed internet in Lebanon

March 3, 2015

Student in kayak with other students on riverbank
Laurel Heile, who now works as a designer in the Washington, D.C., area, was a landscape architecture student working with Virginia Tech's Community Design Assistance Center in 2011 when she and other students undertook a site analysis for St. Paul. They are exploring the river's edge to scout the possibility of placing a boardwalk adjacent to the river.

St. Paul counts the Clinch River as one of its prime features. In 2011, Virginia Tech students helped the town make the most of the asset.

They went to town creating designs for the Bluebell Island trail system in St. Paul as well as updating the master plan for the town's park, says Kim Steika of Virginia Tech's Community Design Assistance Center, part of Virginia Tech's College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

"The town had recently put some land under a conservation easement with the Nature Conservancy" and the students set out to create trails "that complemented the biodiversity of the Clinch River," Steika explains during the Virginia Tech faculty interview segment of Save Our Towns, Episode Eight.

They also sought to connect the new trails "to existing features within the town and existing trails systems, notably the Sugar Hill trail system," she says.

The students worked with the town's leaders, residents, and a nonprofit group – St. Paul Tomorrow – during the design and site-survey process. The students created a "graphic vision" that prompted the town to put tens of thousands of dollars into the project, Steika says. Step by step, the vision came into being, with the town creating the recommended trails and upgrading the park with new playground equipment and restrooms.

Also in Episode Eight, the Examples of Awesome segment puts a spotlight on nearby Lebanon, demonstrating how crucial the role of high-speed internet is in attracting industry. Two big employers are software maker CGI and defense contractor Northrop Grumman.

Rick Boucher, who represented Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 28 years, says, "Without the fiber optic connection, these companies could not have located in Lebanon."

Virginia Tech offers a toolbox for towns to create or leverage broadband assets – whether town leaders seek to offer residents high-speed internet or to attract industry. The toolbox was created by the Center for Geospatial Information Technology, part of the College of Natural Resources and Environment.

Episode Eight is posted at Save Our Towns or can be viewed in this YouTube video:

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