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Developer turns trails into New River homes

Jun. 21, 2008 @ 10:35 PM

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. -- Carl Frischkorn turns off the utility vehicle, jumps out onto a muddy trail and swiftly disappears under a canopy of rhododendron.

A few minutes later, Frischkorn is standing near a breath-taking waterfall on a sunny spring afternoon.

"This is like Ritter Park -- on steroids," Frischkorn said with a smile.

That it is.

A Charlottesville, Va., resident who grew up in Huntington, Frischkorn is back home in the mountains of almost heaven and loving it.

A managing partner with Optima Properties, LLC, Frischkorn is working in partnership with Class VI River Runners, developing Wild Rock West Virginia, a new residential community to be located on the New River Gorge National River near Fayetteville.

Now with home sites being shown, Wild Rock will be an 850 acre sustainable residential community that will border three miles of the north side of the New River Gorge National River. Planned as a low-density, family community, Wild Rock will encompass 180 home sites.

Designed primarily as a second home community using sustainable design principles, individual lot sizes are ranging from a minimum half-acre to 15 acres and averaging almost five acres each.

Located just past Class VI River Runners, and just north of the New River Gorge Bridge, the project is adjacent to the New River Gorge National River area.

Optima Properties, WV, which has more than three decades of land and community development including Cheat Mountain Club (W.Va.), Bear Lake Reserve (N.C.) and the Coves at Smith Mountain Lake (Va.), has plotted out a well thought-out sustainable community that treads lightly on the environment and that is respectful of its unique location near the Gorge.

"It is very unique in that we have three miles of property line that borders the National River boundary," Frischkorn said.

Driving a utility vehicle along the property, Frischkorn said they purchased the about 750-acre plot in January from a multi-generational coal company out of Cincinnati.

Frischkorn said that property provides quite a compliment to the 120 acres owned by Class VI River Runners, which is serving as the headquarters and the commercial focal point for this sustainable development.

"Roll it all together, and we have about 850 acres of development opportunity," Frischkorn said. "What Class VI intends to do is some additional cabins similar to their Cabins on the Gorge, and on the Wild Rock plot, it will be two to about 15-acre plots all the way from the New River Gorge to this mini gorge on Mill Creek."

The location of Wild Rock between the New River Gorge and Mill Creek with its steep cliffs and high gradient stream under thick stands of hemlock and rhododendron, called for conscientious planning, design and construction.

"The first two people we had in here was a feng shui consultant out of New York who reads the natural energies of the land and also Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects that designed the Shanksville, Pa., 9-11 Memorial," Frischkorn said. "The new urbanist thinking is the kind of thinking we have applied to this site-sensitive land. These two guys approach the planning process differently and surprisingly came up with remarkably similar interpretations of the land and reinforcing us and what we are about."

All power and cable lines are running underground and the development is encouraging a low impact, Type-2 septic that weaves dispersion lines through the forest for a much lower impact on the terrain than opening up the forested canopy for a large drainage field.

There are also restrictions on clearing timber for building, and, of course, clearance from the Gorge for any structures.

"We don't build anything for the first 100 feet and there's a limited clear zone," Frischkorn said. "We have a review board that approves the location of the houses and the design and the clearing. You can clear anything under six inches but above that the size of that tree, you couldn't cut without approval of the review board. That keeps the woods and makes it harder to see Wild Rock from the bridge."

Not unlike Class VI's Cabins on the Gorge, Wild Rock West will feature cabins and houses tucked into the native understory of rhododendron and other native trees already growing on the property.

"One of the things we're discouraging people from is cutting trees and planting grass," Frischkorn said. "We're asking for people to use the native species vegetation for a very light touch. We're focusing people on a number of sustainable building practices."

While there will be restrictions to what can be built, Wild Rock will also have shared green space including playing fields and a playground, as well as a pool and a clubhouse meeting room with a restaurant and a bar.

There's also the added bonus of having on-property access to a trail system for hiking and mountain biking from the Gorge to Hawk's Nest in nearby Ansted, as well as some of the best climbing in the eastern United States.

Wild Rock will feature free parking areas for the public and continue to use such popular rock climbing areas as Bubba City and Sandstonia.

Frischkorn said they're working with the New River Alliance of Climbers to continue the open policy of dawn to dusk climbing for the public.

A 1975 graduate of Princeton University with an AB degree in architecture, Frischkorn said it has been exciting to come back and put sustainable building practices to work in his home state.

"We look at sustainability from a conventional basis like a three-legged stool," Frischkorn said. "There's the political leg in that it has to make sense within the community and the neighborhood. You shouldn't do something outrageous that offends for the sake of being green. You should do something mindful and that moves in the right step with your neighbors. The second is that it has to make economic sense. You can't come down here and build a grass hut, but you could buy local and use local materials and local labor and local wood products. And also you should make it aesthetically correct to match the environment you are in. We have defined our statement about sustainability."

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