Project Overview

The Guest River, a short tributary of the Clinch River in Southwest Virginia, flows nearly the entire length of Wise County, including portions of the Jefferson National Forest.  The Guest River streams along a diverse landscape, together with abandoned coal mines, deserted farmland and untouched woodland.  These microclimates provide an ideal locale for ecology-oriented education.

The City of Norton plans to construct a 1.25 mile River Walk, one outcome of which is the permanent establishment of a riparian buffer along the river, ultimately improving water quality by preventing the accumulation of sediment and pollutants from nearby coal mining, industrial, commercial and residential land uses. 

A key component of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise’s mission is leadership in regional environmental stewardship.  Construction of the River Walk in Norton provides a unique opportunity for the College to fulfill this part of its mission through a vital community partnership.

The River Walk will provide educational opportunities for the UVa-Wise faculty and hands-on learning for its students, availing K-12 students from the City of Norton Schools with similar experiences.  The trailheads for the River Walk will be ideally located for such work at the Norton Elementary and Middle School, and the Norton Community Center and Pool.  The College, because of the work taking place in its Departments of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Computer Sciences, is ideally suited to leverage the River Walk to create innovative and exciting learning experiences for students while, at the same time, fostering environmental education and life-long learning throughout the community.