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Notes from the trail:
Making a Connection

Making a Connection


It doesn’t take long to fall in love with the Elizabeth River Trail. For seven years, I had the pleasure of living in Ghent, just a very short walk to the trail. Now, living a 15-minute drive from the trail with limited access to safe cycling and walking options, I’ve come to truly appreciate being able to access the trail without a vehicle. That doesn’t diminish my love of the trail, it just means my trail moments are now more often shared with volunteers and community partners versus solo walks or bike rides. It’s new memories and new trail moments through which I have developed a new love of the trail and an increased desire to share it with more people.

Take a moment and think about your favorite spot or moment on the trail. Who was there? What were you doing? Do you remember any sounds? Was there a cool breeze, the warm sun on your face, or was it a crisp autumn day? Now go back to the question of who was there with you. Some of my favorite trail moments have been solitary. Such as seeing a yellow-crowned night heron on the bridge by the Weyanoke Bird Sanctuary. Or biking on the path around Weyanoke when the smell of flowers mixes with the warm spring air.

Other favorite trail moments have been shared with others. Such as volunteering with friends, a sunset picnic date at Plum Point Park, and a Tides game at Harbor Park are all fun memories in the company of friends or loved ones. In fact, my husband and I had engagement pictures taken at the Weyanoke Bird and Wildflower Sanctuary which is, of course, a wonderful memory! We’re not the only ones to use the trail and the beautiful spaces around it as a backdrop to commemorate a special time in our lives.

One of the benefits of working for such a well-loved trail is that so many people share their special moments with us! Sometimes they’re shared with us on social media and other times, we stumble into those special moments. One day, while Kindra and I were out at Plum Point Park, we happened upon an engagement in progress! We didn’t interrupt their special moment, but when they were leaving the park we did run up to them and ask for pictures. It’s truly special to know that people are selecting the trail as the place to ask the big question or just to share beautiful moments with a loved one. There are, of course, so many different types of love. Seeing parents with their kids enjoying the play equipment, friends enjoying a walk engaged in excited conversation, and people enjoying time on the trail with their pet companions, just to name a few. Time outside is never wasted when it is spent creating connections and making memories!

The ERT is, after all, about connection; to each other, to ourselves, to our community, and to nature. Unless you happen to be a 5 AM runner or a very late-night commuter, you’re never going to feel alone on the trail. Even then, and even on quieter sections of the trail, it would be hard not to encounter another person. Not just because we are in a City, but also because the trail is used by so many and for many different reasons. With 50,000+ trail users a month, it’s easy to build a sense of community. Regular trail users may not always talk to each other, but they see each other. That is often enough to create a sense of connection and commonality. People seem much less like strangers when you often share the same space or engage in similar activities.

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To build on that sense of connection, the ERT offers free programs that appeal to many different interests. Our goal is not just to get people on the trail, it is to help foster community building and a love of the trail. The trail is yours to enjoy alone or with others. It is yours to use for recreation, relaxation, commuting, exercise, and to connect with yourself and others. It is yours to fall in love with and share that love with others. Of course, we love the trail and have been privileged to witness how it can bring people together and we hope the trail continues to be a place that is shared and loved by everyone.

dad and daughter jrp

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