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Preserving the Heigh Torr Country Inn

Project Description

The Heigh Torr Property, spanning 178 acres between Harpers Ferry and Hillsboro in Loudoun County, VA, holds rich historical significance. DeMarr Engineering was entrusted with the task of preserving this historic property and transforming it into the Heigh Torr Country Inn—a premier destination for weddings, overnight stays, and corporate retreats. This ambitious project aimed to marry historic and environmental preservation with contemporary amenities, creating a unique experience for visitors.

Heigh Torr - Historic Derry Tavern
Figure 1: Historic Derry Tavern
Long Gravel Driveway Entrance to the Heigh Torr Estate
Figure 2: Long Gravel Driveway Entrance to the Estate

To support Heigh Torr in their endeavors, DeMarr Engineering provided a range of civil engineering services, including:

Topographic Survey and Existing Conditions Analysis

To initiate the preservation process, DeMarr Engineering conducted a comprehensive topographic and existing conditions survey across the entire 178-acre property. This involved setting up a GPS base station and control points to establish a precise vertical datum and horizontal Virginia State Plane coordinates. Given the vast expanse of the estate, a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) was utilized to transport the survey equipment and crew efficiently.

Heigh Torr Estate - Base Station Setup
Figure 3: Base Station Setup
Heigh Torr - Aerial Survey
Figure 4: Control Point Setup for Aerial Survey

Keeping our Footprint Minimal

Minimizing the survey footprint while ensuring project efficiency was a priority. The main survey truck and trailer were parked on the gravel driveway, and the UTV was deployed for off-road travel. With its lightweight construction and wide tires designed to distribute weight evenly, the UTV had minimal ground impact, comparable to driving a riding mower over grass.

DeMarr Engineering Survey Truck and UTV
Figure 5: Survey Truck and UTV
DeMarr Engineering UTV with GPS Rover
Figure 6: UTV with GPS Rover

Comprehensive Ground Data Collection

To obtain detailed topographic survey data, our survey team employed a combination of walking and UTV travel throughout the expansive property.

Land Surveying with a Bird’s Eye View Perspective

In addition to ground-based measurements, an aerial survey was conducted using a fixed-wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), popularly known as a “drone.” This UAV captured over 927 high-resolution 42MP images, utilizing a full-frame Sony camera, in a single flight.

With this aerial survey capability, our team was able to collect more survey detail in a faster time frame than a traditional 2-3 person survey crew could collect manually.

land surveying with UAV/drone
Figure 7: Wingtra UAV for Aerial Survey

Advantages of Supplementing Topographic Surveys with UAS Technology

Utilizing Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for surveying offers numerous advantages that have revolutionized the field of land surveying. Firstly, UAS enables efficient data collection over large areas in a significantly shorter time compared to traditional surveying methods. With the ability to cover expansive land from the sky, UAS can capture detailed aerial imagery and collect high-resolution data with precision and speed. This not only saves time but also reduces the need for extensive manpower and physical presence on the ground.

Secondly, UAS provides enhanced safety during surveying operations. By eliminating the need for surveyors to access busy roads, challenging or hazardous terrain, such as steep slopes, rugged landscapes, or remote locations, UAS minimizes the risks associated with on-site work. Surveyors can operate the UAS from a safe distance, mitigating potential dangers and ensuring the well-being of the surveying team.

Another advantage of UAS-based surveying is the ability to capture comprehensive visual data and create accurate 3D models of the surveyed area. UAS can capture detailed images, orthomosaics, and digital surface models, allowing surveyors to obtain a holistic view of the site. These visual representations offer valuable insights for analysis, planning, and design purposes, enabling better decision-making and enhanced project outcomes.

Furthermore, UAS surveying is cost-effective. Compared to traditional surveying methods that require extensive fieldwork, UAS significantly reduces the expenses associated with manpower, equipment, and time spent on-site. The speed and efficiency of UAS data collection and processing allow for quicker project turnaround and reduced overall costs.

Lastly, UAS surveying promotes environmental sustainability. With reduced ground disturbance and minimized ecological impact, UAS helps preserve sensitive ecosystems and protected areas. By limiting physical footprints and minimizing the need for ground-based access, UAS contributes to sustainable land development practices.

The advantages of using UAS for surveying are evident. From increased efficiency and safety to comprehensive data collection and cost savings, UAS has transformed the surveying industry, offering a valuable tool for accurate and expedient land assessment and analysis.

Aerial Survey of Heigh Torr
Figure 8: One of the 927 high resolution images collected during the Aerial Survey

Valuable Insight

The aerial survey provided our team with a wealth of data, enabling faster and more detailed analysis compared to traditional manual survey methods. These images, when processed back in the office, offered valuable insights for both the property owner and engineers.

The geotagged images were further utilized to create a single 2D orthomosaic image and a 3D model of the site. This comprehensive representation facilitated information extraction, visual communication, and enhanced collaboration with the client.

2D orthomosaic image and a 3D model of Heigh Torr
Figure 9: Orthomosaic and Digital Surface Model created from the Aerial Survey images.

With this 3D Model, our team is able to extract even more information, as well as share the information with the client and use it as a visual aid to discuss in meetings.

3D Model of the 178-Acre Site of Heigh Torr
Figure 10: 3D Model of the 178-Acre Site
3D Model of Site colored by elevation.
Figure 11: 3D Model of Site colored by elevation.

Development of Existing Conditions Plan and Rural Economy Site Plan

After collecting and processing all the data, DeMarr Engineering produced a 4-page Existing Conditions Plan for the project, which was incorporated into the 21-page Rural Economy Site Plan—both prepared by our experienced team.

Final PDF Existing Conditions Plan Deliverable of Survey
Figure 12: Final PDF Existing Conditions Plan Deliverable of Survey

Detailed Documentation

This site was so large, we had to make one plan sheet to show the overall site at 1”=200’ scale . Then our team made four additional full size sheets at 1”=100’ scale to show the details of the site.

Due to the property’s vast size of 178-acres, the full-size (24”x36”) plan sheets were designed to showcase both the overall site at a 1″=200′ scale (Figure 12) and the intricate details of the site at a 1″=100′ scale (Figure 13). This meticulous documentation provided a comprehensive understanding of the property’s existing conditions and served as a foundation for future development.

Detailed Existing Conditions Plan Sheet
Figure 13: One of four detailed Existing Conditions Plan Sheets

The Benefits of Preservation Through Surveying and Site Planning

Preserving Heigh Torr was of paramount importance due to its rich historical significance and environmental value. As a historic 178-acre property located in Loudoun County, VA, Heigh Torr represents a tangible connection to the past, offering a glimpse into the region’s heritage and cultural identity. By preserving this property, we ensure that future generations can appreciate and learn from its historical structures, such as the Derry Tavern. Additionally, Heigh Torr is nestled within a picturesque landscape, encompassing diverse ecosystems and natural beauty. Preserving this land helps protect valuable habitats, wildlife corridors, and scenic vistas, contributing to the overall ecological health of the area. Furthermore, the transformation of Heigh Torr into a Country Inn provides a sustainable approach to repurposing the property, offering opportunities for tourism, community engagement, and economic growth while still maintaining its historical and environmental integrity. By recognizing the importance of preserving Heigh Torr, we honor the past, protect the environment, and create a lasting legacy for future generations to cherish.

Figure 14: Rural Economy Site Plan Prepared by DeMarr Engineering
Figure 14: Rural Economy Site Plan Prepared by DeMarr Engineering

Key Takeaways

The sheer size of the 178-acre property presented a challenge for our team. Nevertheless, armed with cutting-edge technology and a seasoned engineering team, we successfully navigated this ambitious undertaking with efficiency and precision. The collaboration between our dedicated surveyors and engineers on this project was a source of great satisfaction. As we look ahead, we look forward to embarking on future preservation projects spanning over 100 acres, continuously striving to elevate our skills and expand our capabilities.

If you have a similar preservation project in Loudoun County or Northern Virginia, please contact us for a quote.