I’m continually humbled by the role that the trail plays in people’s lives. I see it every time I’m on it and observe the many ways it’s being utilized and the many different people who use it. Sometimes I’m blessed to have people tell me directly what the trail means to them, and sometimes I stumble upon that meaning, like I did on a recent visit to the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Virginia Beach. In an exhibit called Living Apart: Geography of Segregation in the 21st Century, I was surprised to see our very own ERT on the walls of the museum.
The exhibit explores our region’s history of housing discrimination and by distributing disposable cameras to people throughout Hampton Roads with the simple task of “taking pictures of places that are meaningful to their life,” these people become artists and create the exhibit. It was easy to spot the ERT among the pictures. In the accompanying notations I saw the following words: quiet, quaint, tranquil, calming, nature, smile, it’s a way of getting away. I was delighted to literally see the trail through another person’s eyes and know they also found it to be a sanctuary.
This exhibit at the Virginia MOCA runs through February 5, 2023.
While the ERT’s home is in Norfolk, the city of Virginia Beach plays an important role. The future of the Elizabeth River Trail lies in our eastward expansion to meet up with the proposed Virginia Beach Trail at Newtown Road. This month I had the opportunity to meet a contingent of representatives from Virginia Beach on a tour of active transportation sites. While standing in the parking lot of the light rail station at Newtown Road talking about how transformative it would be to our region to have our two trails completed and meet in this spot, I was struck by the people exiting The Tide and already walking the dirt path of the rail line. This was the safest place for them to be.
Trails are not just about recreation. Our urban trail plays an important role in the infrastructure of our region, and as we work towards building our trail from Norfolk State University to Newtown Road, we’re providing that safe space to commute by foot or by bike. Creating a space for everyone and in turn creating a meaningful place, one that evokes the words quiet, calm, tranquil.
Where the trail takes us is often not about our destination, but about how it makes us feel. What a public trail means is that our lives are intertwined in the human journey. In the moments we witness together and the space the ERT offers to share in that collective experience.
At our last board meeting of the year, the Chair of our DEI committee challenged us all to think about these questions: What if the ERT didn’t exist? How would it impact you? How would it impact the community? If the trail is your way to work, a refuge from the day, your way to socialize, exercise and care for yourself, the place that you make memories with your friends and family, then become a member with your tax-deductible gift today. We have big plans for 2023, join us!