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Notes from the trail:
CommonWealth, Unique Impact

CommonWealth, Unique Impact

There’s a common joke in the non-profit sector that work is just saying, “after this week, things will slow down”, over and over again. We can definitely relate. While we don’t ever really have a slow season, April through June is certainly our busiest time of year. This month, I wanted to recap a few of the opportunities where I had the special privilege to shine a light on the ERT and share some of our impact locally and across the Commonwealth.

The month began with an invitation to participate in a Trails and Tourism panel at the Virginia Destination Marketing Organization’s annual conference in Richmond. Alongside Cat Anthony, Executive Director of the Virginia Capital Trail and Joe Petty  Director of  Economic Development for Warren County representing the future Shenandoah Rail Trail, I was honored to represent coastal Virginia and South Hampton Roads.

We each shared the role that trails play in promoting tourism in our region, as well as successful projects that highlight the economic and social benefits of trails. In a room full of people from every corner of the Commonwealth, it was clear the resounding response was that trails are good for tourism. Getting to share the unique impact the ERT has on Hampton Roads while in our state’s capital was a special moment for our still young Foundation.


Next, the ERT Foundation was in good company in a packed ballroom attending the highly anticipated Norfolk State of the City address. Alongside many accomplishments in our great City this past year, we were thrilled to see the ERT highlighted and Mayor Alexander say, “the ERT continues to thrive, serving over 600,000 trail users in 2023.”  Mayor Alexander shared the news that ERTF will be partnering with skilled trades’ students and faculty at Tidewater Tech and Centura College to build 4 new trailhead shelters along the ERT. These trailheads will be positioned at Jeff Robertson Park, Lambert’s Point, Larchmont Library, and near the Eastern terminus at Park Ave.

Finally, the ERT Foundation led a moderated panel discussion specific to the impact of the Elizabeth River Trail on Norfolk at the Urban Land Institute Virginia’s annual conference held here in Norfolk. Alongside me was Linda Peck, Executive Director of the Norfolk Innovation Corridor, and Jay Grant, Executive Director of LISC Hampton Roads.

In another packed room where Virginians from all over the state were represented, it was powerful to share the Elizabeth River Trail’s impact on innovation, a thriving technology zone, social determinants of health, access to transportation and economic generators and so much more. Many in the room were unaware that Norfolk had a trail or of the impact it had on the City. Raising awareness and then inviting visitors to explore and experience our City through this trail, is the best possible outcome for a conference panel.


Just released this week, we are excited to share preliminary results from our very first Economic Impact Study. Funded in part through generous grant awards from the City of Norfolk’s Economic Development Authority and LISC Hampton Roads, the study was conducted by Mangum Economics, a leader in industry analysis, economic impact assessment, policy and program evaluation, and economic and workforce strategy development.

While we are still reviewing the findings of the report in full, and will be announcing a forthcoming public virtual session where the Mangum team will present the findings in context, we can share the following summary:

• After accounting for the economic ripple effects generated by its direct economic impact, the ERT provides an estimated total annual economic impact to the City of Norfolk that supports approximately:
o 158 jobs.
o $5.8 million in associated wages and benefits.
o $18.7 million in economic output.
• The estimated annual fiscal impact from that additional economic activity in the City of Norfolk is approximately:
o $677,200 in local tax revenue.
o $2.2 million in total local, state, and federal tax revenue.

The ERT Foundation is extremely proud of the work that has been accomplished and of the impact the trail has on our City as an asset and a source of pride. We hope it will become a regional amenity as we work towards a connection with Virginia Beach. These accomplishments would not be possible without our amazing Board of Directors, Corporate Partners, individual donors and sponsors and countless volunteers. Your time, talent and treasure makes an enormous difference!

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