Article date: November 16, 1999

Avtex Multi-Stakeholders meet with landscaping firms to get ideas on proposed nature reserve

By Richard Nash

Members of the Avtex Multi-Stakeholders Group met Monday night with representatives of two architectural landscaping firms to give suggestions and input on the design of a proposed nature preserve and outdoor recreation area that will be developed on the grounds of the former Avtex Fibers rayon plant on Kendrick Lane.

The stakeholders group, which is made up of local residents and representative of various organizations, has been meeting since early spring with the intent of helping along the redevelopment process of the former plant.

Recently, the group has focused on developing the western half of the site along the Shenandoah River, which the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority has set aside to establish a natural recreation area with riverfront access, open park land and green space.

On Monday, individual stakeholders were able to give specific suggestions to the men and women who will design that facility.

Laura Wiberg and Richard Dorrier of EDAW Inc. and Antoinette L. Pepin of Wetland Studies and Solution Inc. told the stakeholders that their suggestions will be integral to the future park’s design.

The two firms, which are located in Alexandria and Chantilly, have worked together on a number of projects similar to Avtex and always have relied heavily on the advice and support of local residents, they said.

" At all times, we want to be sharing ideas," Ms. Wiberg said, "We will be here, working and drawing, testing ideas, and we’re going to encourage you to pick up a pen and help us do that. You are smarter about your community and your community’s needs and desires than we are."

Dorrier said EDAW and Wetland have designed parks and recreation areas on former industrial sites throughout the nation. Some of their most notable projects have been the redevelopment of strip mine areas in Pennsylvania and former military bases in Massachusetts and Suffolk, he said.

Bill Cutler of FMC Corp., said officials with FMC, the Economic Development Authority, the county and the Environmental Protection Agency decided to hire the firms because of their experience with such matters. FMC is a former owner of the Avtex site.

Ms. Wiberg said the public will have a chance to comment on the project during a series of day-long workshops and interview sessions the architects will hold over the next two months.

The workshops will be held Dec. 13, Jan. 3 and one unspecified date in mid-February. They will feature briefings on the work the architects already have done, tours of the Avtex site and studio time during which participants can develop and explore new ideas for the site, she said.

Individuals can sign up for interview sessions, in which they will be able to talk with architects one-on-one, during the workshops, she said.

Richard Kuhn, an Environmental Protection Agency spokesman and one of the group’s principal organizers, said the meeting was one the most important the stakeholders have had.

" I think the meeting tonight was really important because it was the first time John and Jane Public have had the opportunity to have real, hands-on say in the way the site should be developed," he said. "In this meeting and the ones that will follow in the next couple of months, we’re really going to be doing the things that this group was designed to do."