The Trail Through a New Lens
This month I had the opportunity to share the trail with an out-of-town visitor, a fellow trail lover, master naturalist and poet. Jenna Veazy and her husband serve on the board of the Friends of the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail (DRHT), just south of the Potomac River.
The DRHT is a multi-modal waterfront trail, with a rail trail history, wetlands to preserve and a rich heritage story to tell. As we walked and talked along our historic waterfront, I had the privilege of sharing how our Foundation started as a Friend’s group and evolved to what it is now. She marveled over our signage and amenities, our public art, the trail ambassadors we encountered on our walk, and all we had accomplished in just six years as a 501(c)3. I reminded her that it was years of work before that with volunteer groups just like hers that put our Foundation in the position to launch.
While our trails couldn’t be more different, our highly urban ERT and their very rural DRHT, we share similar issues in the world of trails. Both of us are looking for funding opportunities, brainstorming ways to better involve our respective communities and boards and looking for fresh and innovative ways to engage trail users and entice volunteers.
As she shared the DRHT story and their challenges of limited rural community resources, she also highlighted their fundraising and advocacy efforts, work with their local Navy community and the amazing work she’s done to launch their Poetry on the Trail project. All strategies we could implement here in our urban environment. The more we talked, and walked, (covering nearly 6.5 miles of our trail), the more I saw our ERT through a new lens. The hard work of our Foundation, yes, but also the support we have from so many community partners and resources who love us. Getting to see the trail, something I use nearly every single day, through someone else’s eyes is grounding. Jenna’s view of our trail reminded me how far we’ve come, made me excited for our future possibilities and made me see the ground at my feet and the sparkling river in front of me like a newly unwrapped gift. I hope you see this trail as your gift, too.
As we gear up for back-to-school season, normally we send our summer interns back to school and wish them well. This year we get to say, “see you in a few weeks!” Our amazing intern Steven has wrapped up his official summer internship to resume his horticulture studies at Tidewater Community College, but we’re thrilled to say he’s remaining a dedicated maintenance volunteer with the ERT Foundation and will continue serving the trail landscaping needs. He wanted to share his summer experience with you.
Take it away, Steven Kirchmann:
The Elizabeth River Trail was something I always thought was special in the city of Norfolk. As a person that walks as their main mode of transportation, the trail was always a beautiful and safe way to get to work or to one’s favorite local brewery. However, being a horticulture student made me see it through a different lens. So that’s when I had the idea to become an intern for the ERT and work on the trail “hands-on.”
Kindra and Morgan have been the most welcoming and understanding bosses imaginable. They have encouraged me to push myself and take on new experiences, as well as giving me valuable learning skills in the field. I have co-led volunteer days, did my first pesticide application, removed invasive weeds, participated in board meetings, and even made my first official social media graphic. And there’s so much more.
My biggest two projects, the Master Plan and upkeep of the Donor Sculpture, have been so rewarding to help me gain more confidence in doing big projects and being successful at them. They were also amazing opportunities to actually make a difference and leave a lasting footprint in Norfolk.
My Master Plan will hopefully teach future interns on how to maintain the trail. And the Donor Sculpture is now a welcoming sight in the already wonderful Freemason area. I want to thank Morgan and Kindra for trusting me with this internship, and for creating a positive and fulfilling work environment.