St. Paul, VA: Bluebell Island Natural Area Trail Design and Conceptual Redesign of A. R. Matthews Park

St. Paul is a small but vibrant town in southwestern Virginia with a rich history. Situated along the Clinch River and holding land in both Russell and Wise Counties, it is strategically located and poised to serve as a gateway to the region’s natural assets.

St. Paul currently boasts many individual scenic walking and biking trails, such as the River Trail and the Sugar Hill
Loop Trail. A newly proposed trail, the Bluebell Island Trail, could link these trails together and “would make this area marketable to the tourist industry and benefit the town through the increased tourist trade.”*

The Community Design Assistance Center (CDAC) worked with the Town of St. Paul and St. Paul Tomorrow, Inc. to develop a conceptual master plan for the Bluebell Island Trail as well as a redesign for A.R. Matthews Park. Bluebell Island is approximately 1.3 acres. This undeveloped natural area is owned by the town and has recently been put in a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The town and TNC want to see a natural surfaced trail system developed on the island to compliment the biodiversity of the area and to provide connections to existing trail systems in the area. A.R. Matthews Park, the town’s current riverside park, is adjacent to Bluebell Island and is home to the annual Clinch River Days Festival (circa 1998). The new design for the park complements the Bluebell Island trail system and provides a pedestrian connection parallel to the Clinch River that joins with Oxbow Lake and the Sugar Hill Loop Trail system.

Project team: Michael LaRoche, Caitlin Edenfield, Laurel Heile

Sponsor: Virginia Department of Forestry/Town of St. Paul/St. Paul Tomorrow, Inc.

* “Town of St. Paul VA Downtown Plan.” (2010): 11. St. Paul Virginia. Town of St. Paul. Web. 20 May 2012. <>

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