The Elizabeth River Trail has added new lighting to a section of its trail in Norfolk, and it’s like nothing you’ve seen before.
As you follow the path through the West Ghent neighborhood after dark, the path beneath you
literally glows. Stones that glow in the dark have been incorporated into the pathway in an artistic and
Safety was the primary motivation for lighting this segment of the trail, according to Kindra Greene, Executive Director of the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation. This section is dark, and passes through Jeff Robertson Park. It is adjacent to the Weyanoke Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary. The trail needed some light, but not boring and typical lighting that would spill into the neighboring sanctuary and natural areas.
Greene says, “Safety was our goal, but we also wanted something magical and unique.”
The foundation spent a lot of time on research, and tested various types of alternative lighting. They chose glow-in-the-dark stones that would be placed into the trail surface. The stones are made by Ambient Glow Technology of Canada. The stones are made using a proprietary process that incorporates the elements Strontium-Aluminate and Europium to create stones that absorb sunlight quickly, then glow in the dark for hours afterward. They are not radioactive.
The company says it only takes 10 minutes of sunlight to fully charge the stones, and that they can glow for up to 15 hours after that charge. The stones are environmentally friendly, and last at least 20 years. In addition to stones of various sizes, Ambient Glow Technology sells glowing sand, letters and numbers, for commercial as well as residential use.
“We tried a variety of materials, and these stones were the brightest and glowed the longest,” says Greene.
The glow stones were used in about 800 feet of trail now dubbed The Glowline. The old asphalt trail was removed. A concrete bed was put in place. The glow stones were then added to a top layer of concrete, using stencils made in the shape of fiddle ferns. According to Greene, designing, creating and using the stencils to create the fern pattern was a tremendous amount of extra work. After curing, the top layer of concrete was lightly ground down to expose the stones. The extra work was worth it.
Trail users say the results are fantastic. The stones are essentially invisible during the day, but the magical green glow of the ferns comes out after dark.
Greene says there are no plans to extend the glow trail at this time, since most other sections of the trail are already lighted. And some areas of the trail are simply not dark enough at night for the glow to be as visible as it should be.
The Glowline is a must-see section of the trail. At night, of course.
Elizabeth River Crossings and PRA Group of Norfolk are The Glowline’s lead sponsors. The rest of the multi-use trail covers 10.5 miles of Norfolk, from Norfolk International Terminals to Norfolk State University. It passes the Hermitage Museum, Old Dominion University, Weyanoke, Plum Point Park, Nauticus, the Waterside District, and Harbor Park. You can find a detailed interactive map at elizabethrivertrail.org.