Drillfield Paths Committee experiments with fourteen new surfaces

Originally published by the Collegiate Times
Published in print edition, front page, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015. 

Between September 14 and September 25, students can share feedback about 14 materials being tested on Drillfield paths for permanent installation. The decision is scheduled to be announced announced December 2015.

Students can share feedback via Twitter (@drillfieldpaths), online and by scanning QR codes posted on signs adjacent to the materials on the Drillfield. Feedback from community members will be collected in the winter and spring. The original Drillfield did not feature any planned paths, but years of students trekking across the field to and from class created natural “desire paths.” 

These student-made paths led to maintenance issues, primarily mud being carried into academic buildings. The main paths currently in use were first paved in the 1970s, with smaller asphalt paths added in summer 2014 as a temporary fix until a permanent solution is decided upon.

Tested materials include the existing asphalt, stabilized turf, synthetic turf and a combination of concrete, gravel and pavers chosen by the university Drillfield Paths Committee. The committee identifies, tests and evaluates materials to be weather-durable and in compliance with the Americans with Disability Act.

Maintaining a greenspace aesthetic and the Drillfield’s multipurpose use are two goals of the larger initiative supported by the Board of Visitors.

“The Drillfield is the iconic outdoor recreation and transition space in the heart of the Virginia Tech campus,” stated the Virginia Tech facilities request proposal. “A comprehensive master plan is currently being developed for the Drillfield… the pedestrian pathways across the Drillfield are a key component to this master plan.”

The Drillfield Paths Committee, created in spring 2015, is comprised of students, faculty and staff and will provide a recommendation to university officials at the end of the 2015-2016 academic year.

“We brought together experts from our faculty, with those that maintain the Drillfield, and those that use it on a daily basis,” said Sherwood Wilson, vice president for administration. “They have the expertise and they have a thorough understanding of what the Drillfield means to a university community.”

The University is requesting faculty proposals until September 15 for a path material with the selection announced in December 2015. The proposal will be selected by the Drillfield Paths Committee and receives a $30,000 stipend for research, development, testing and evaluation to be shared between the vice president for administration and the vice president for research and innovation. Field testing will begin in the 2016-2017 academic year.

“I hope to accurately represent the graduate student body and be an advocate for a sustainable all-weather solution,” said Devita McCullough, a student member of the committee majoring in industrial and systems engineering. “I bring a pretty unique perspective and educational background.”

The Drillfield Master Plan will address changes in the pathways, field turf, seating, crosswalks, lighting, landscaping and amenities such as Wi-Fi. Seemingly in a constant state of construction, Virginia Tech continues to improve and invent the future.

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