Appalachian State students present their recommendations for Covered Bridge parks

John Thompson • May 4, 2018 at 11:35 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A year’s worth of work by students of Appalachian State University’s IDEXlab was presented to the people of Elizabethton on Friday afternoon.

The students in the university’s building science program unveiled their ideas for improving the city’s parks surrounding the Covered Bridge.

A large group of interested citizens attended the presentation, which was held in the Council Chambers at City Hall. Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mains praised the students for their hard work and the quality of their ideas.

The students’ plan centers on the bridge itself, but most of the improvements are to the three surrounding city parks: Covered Bridge Park, Edwards Island Park and South Covered Bridge; and the West Bank of the Doe across from Covered Bridge Park.

The students reflected on architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s belief that the fireplace or hearth was the heart of a home in the beginning of Friday’s presentation.

For Elizabethton, the students felt the bridge served the purpose of Wright’s fireplace.

“To the city of Elizabethton, the Covered Bridge is the community’s heart. Standing through many decades, it is the long-lasting symbol of home to the city.

“Focusing on the Covered Bridge and emphasizing on the key gathering places waiting the park, the IDEXlab developed the concept of (HEART)HS.”

Their study suggested better illumination for the bridge by using wall washing light for the exterior of the bridge. Student Dani Scaccia said light fixtures should be placed in the roof overhang and along the bottom of the bridge to provide an integrated lighting design.

On the interior, the students suggested a double row of lights instead of the current single row.

The students also recommended the city use uniform signage to unify the area.

The students had a series of recommendations for each of the three parks, which the students referred to as the hearths.

The recommendations for South Covered Bridge included 18 new parking spaces, river access, a renovated picnic shelter, new restrooms, a proposed South Covered Bridge Park pavilion with restrooms, landscaping and a proposed path to the park. The pavilion includes a bridge viewing platform and a fireplace.

Recommendations for the Covered Bridge Park included a renovated Covered Bridge entrance, new flowerbed planters that double as seats, a renovated observation deck, improved river access, new corner terraces, an improved main entrance to the park and new seating for the stage.

The West Bank would be incorporated into a viewing area for the Covered Bridge Park Stage, with treacle seating, a new retaining wall, a new memorial to the Watauga Association, new planters that double as seating, a covered Bridge viewing deck, a stepping stone river crossing and an Elk Avenue star entry.

Because of its lower, downriver location from the rest of the parks, Edwards Island Park would have an emphasis on being a bit separate from the busier parks. It would feature a new Welcome Center with restrooms, a renovated Rotary Club Pavilion with exposed truss work and fireplace, a relocated gazebo, a new pond and water wheel, a foot bridge over the pond and a river level boardwalk.

The students said the project did not have to be built all at one time. They recommended it be built in four phases over seven years.

The students said the first stage would be the building of the foundation, with the construction of the Covered Bridge restrooms, amphitheater seating, retaining walls, signage, paths and landscaping. The estimated cost was $378,637.75.

The second phase would include the renovations to the Rotary Club Pavilion, renovated picnic shelter, parking and landscaping. The total cost of the phase would be $98,774.91.

The third phase would include the construction of the South Covered Bridge pavilion, the West Bank viewing platform and the gazebo relocation. The cost would be $55,724.18.

The final phase would include the welcome center and restrooms, the river boardwalk and landscaping. The total cost for that phase would be $135,777.19.

A newly organized citizens organization, the IDEAs Group, worked with Appalachian State to initiate the project.

After the presentation, IDEXlab faculty member Chelsea Helms said the lab usually works on plans for single buildings. This was the first time the lab had planned for a whole complex of buildings.

Helms said the presentation was a milepost in the students’ academic careers. She said most will be walking across the stage next Saturday to receive their diplomas.

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