Change & Purpose
Since “all things great are wound up with all things little” I want to share a speech I gave this month at an intimate backyard family memorial I was honored to be invited to:
On behalf of the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation, I’m honored to be included in the celebration of the life of Thomas Ellis Welch. The Elizabeth River Trail, or ERT, as it exists now, was built upon parts of the very route Mr. Welch traveled nearly daily by bicycle for 50 years.
Riding his bike from the west end of Norfolk to the oceanfront, along loosely connected spurs and old railway tracks, to what we now know as the ERT took vision to imagine such a connection, as Mr. Welch did.
The trail, even before its existence, was the centerpiece in the lives of so many. One of the founding board members of our Foundation, now in his 70’s remembers running the trail “in the 1980’s, navigating a path between West Ghent and downtown Norfolk on a little used railroad track that crossed over the entrance to the Midtown tunnel by Fort Norfolk. The pathway had treacherous footing over rail ties curving around warehouses, but offered great scenic views of the Elizabeth River.”
The Foundation has made those views of our beautiful working waterfront accessible and open to all.
I like to imagine that these two men would have intersected. One on foot, one by bike, both maintaining an active lifestyle, uncovering the opportunities in Norfolk to do so, even before that infrastructure was in place, and blazing a trail forward to bring us to today, where the ERT stands on the edge of a major opportunity to continue east connecting to our sister city in Virginia Beach and a regional trail that would take us all the way to the oceanfront!
Thank you to the family of Thomas Welch for inviting me here today, and to Mr. Welch himself for showing us the way.