Pennsylvania town uses retaining wall to raise property out of floodplain
In 2015, the Borough of Bellefonte, Pa., embarked on a $6 million waterfront redevelopment project to beautify the area, attract more foot traffic and boost business in town.
One of the initial challenges was building a retaining wall to raise the property out of the floodplain to make it viable to potential developers while protecting the environment both in and around the creek.
The local Redi-Rock manufacturer rose to the challenge.
“From the initial design phase, there were a number of special requests,” said Betsy Wisniski, Paxton Precast representative. “The department of fish and wildlife required custom blocks to safeguard the trout population, and the historical society was very involved in color selection and design.”
The walls and walkway had to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing, creating a destination for walkers, fishers and other visitors to the area.
A lighted pathway and stairs make this riverfront easier and safer to access for recreational activities.
When planning the project, members of the development committee saw an existing wall in Sunbury, Pa., and liked the look, which gave engineers a place to start.
“Redi-Rock was the perfect fit to handle the critical earth retention demands of the stream bank stability, as well as provide the enhanced aesthetic features for the project, which are consistent with the architecture of this historic town,” said Clint Hines, wall engineer, J.C. Hines & Associates LLC.
Redi-Rock’s large modular units, which do not require additional supports, were a distinct advantage in completing the project on a tight deadline.
“We chose Redi-Rock based on the engineer’s experience with the product, its aesthetic appearance and the cost,” said Donald L. Holderman, Bellefonte assistant borough manager. “We were invited to look at their finished project in Sunbury and speak to local officials, and were pleased by what we saw and heard.”
The Redi-Rock manufacturer, Paxton Precast, was able to cast a light housing into the blocks, so the riverfront has a lighted pathway.
The finished project includes nine walls totaling approximately 17,000 sq ft (1,579 sq ms), as well as a 10-ft (3-m) wide lighted walkway.
The walls were constructed using 60-in. (1,520-mm) limestone blocks, along with gravity and freestanding blocks in the Ledgestone texture. Also included were specialty cast blocks to house lights for the walkway and specialty “fish blocks.”
“Because the wall encroaches on the creek, we were asked to produce a customized cantilevered block to create a safe haven and shade for the trout,” Wisniski said.
The refurbished area includes a set of steps leading to the water to enable easy access for fishers, kayakers and waders to enjoy Spring Creek, as well as a ramp to cater to guests with disabilities. The lighted walkway also provides a place for a pleasant evening stroll along the water. Perhaps most importantly, the retaining wall will allow once-vacant land to be developed, contributing to the town’s growth.
“Needless to say, everyone was happy with the way it turned out, and we have received nothing but compliments on the results,” Holderman said. “We would recommend this product to anyone because it looks fantastic, was easily installed and was very cost-effective.”