WVU students submit plans for Point Park revamp

PARKERSBURG – West Virginia University students journeyed to Parkersburg Friday to present plans for revamping Point Park and creating a way-finding system for downtown.

The students’ work is part of a Campus Community Link Project. The Link Project is an initiative of the West Virginia Campus Compact in partnership with the West Virginia Community Development Hub with funding provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. Parkersburg is one of several projects selected in 2012 for funding by the West Virginia Campus Compact.

Mayor Bob Newell said funding for the Point Park study is funded through The Ross Foundation.

Rickie Yeager, planning administrator for the city of Parkersburg, said the city ran into issues last year with the success of its Point Park concert series. While about 500 people attended the first concert, that number swelled to about 2,400 for the final concert of 2012.

During a meeting Friday at the Parkersburg Municipal Building, students presented 23 plans for revamping Point Park and making it more crowd-friendly. Many contained ambitious but unlikely changes, such as tearing down sections of the city’s flood wall or relocating the park’s $10 million amphitheater.

Kathryn Wittner, assistant professor in landscape architecture at WVU, said while not all of the designs are viable, all attempt to address areas of concern for the city, namely access to Point Park, the flow of walking traffic, accommodating large crowds and how the city can keep those crowds shopping in the downtown area.

“These students have a lot of talent, a lot of focus,” she said. “We will continue to look at connections into downtown Parkersburg. The idea will be to revise these, to see what is viable and to come back to the city with one or two viable designs.”

City Development Director Ann Conageski said the activity is a win-win for the two groups, as the city gets fresh perspectives and ideas and the students get to see real-world application of skills.

“Sometimes you learn more from failure than from success,” she said. “We had asked them to give us some improvements for the area, and there may be some ideas in here that we can use. And it is a great experience for the students.”

Students also walked through areas of downtown Parkersburg, recording information to help create a way-finding system for the area.

“The idea is to bring the signage back to the pedestrian level,” said WVU senior Jacob Bennett.

“We figure out where people are going, what kinds of areas to bring attention to, and design signs for those areas,” said senior Christina Reis.

The students said they expect to bring a report on the way-finding system back to Parkersburg in the next several weeks.

Conageski said this is not the first time the city has worked with WVU and its students to help with city planning. In August of last year students presented conceptual designs for a revamp of Agate Marble Park. In November of last year, a group presented council members with several designs for possible land use in south Parkersburg.

Conageski said some of those design suggestions are now being considered by the city for possible implementation.