The plans lay on the table. This is their first week in appearance. Professor Steven McBride, chairman of the Landscape Architecture Program at West Virginia University, waves his hand, turns some three-by-four pages, and ideas spring out in shades of brown and green.

TitledThe Landscape Architecture Design Projects for WV Highways,McBride and his learning crew are making a proposal to beautify the state, making it more welcoming for travelers and citizens.

According to McBride, the projects goals are to improve the visual impact of state highways, stimulate the economy of the state by promoting tourism, and give landscape architecture students practical design experiences.

The plans are set to go to Department of Transportation/Division of Highways officials in Charleston within the next few months. The first set of plans are for the Hazelton Welcome Center in northern West Virginia.

The center is located on I-68, the first resting place that travelers can visit once entering the state from Maryland. West Virginias rolling hills are brightly showcased in these plans, which were created by McBride and student assistant, Cheryl Henthorne.

We want to enhance what is already there and really show people what the state has to offer,McBride said.The area currently consists of a new contemporary-style building with rest facilities, a map/brochure wall, picnic table width=100%s and mountainous views.

However, the views of the vast West Virginia valleys and hills are blocked by lawn and pavement.

The view there is actually quite breathtaking, but travelers cant see it from the ground immediately around the building,McBride noted.

Therefore, the new proposal includes a state-outlined, landscaped mountain-viewing plaza, along with long and short hiking trails for visitors that wish to stretch their legs.

The programs next plan will focus on renovations to the Visitors Center off I-79, entering the state from Pennsylvania.

The design projects are providing WVU s landscape architecture students with hands-on experiences while beautifying the state and increasing tourism potential. Its truly anAlmost Heavenly experience.