Dear Parks and Recreation
We don’t exist without relationships. This is true at a basic human level, but as a non-profit organization, it is fundamental to our story and at the very core of what we do. We build relationships and we hope to connect people to the trail and through that to each other in a meaningful way.
In this month of gratitude, I want to highlight a City Department that has gone above and beyond this year to help support the ERT Foundation. We are grateful to have access to city departments and partners who believe our work is meaningful.
The City of Norfolk Parks and Recreation Department has long been a champion of the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation. Members of the department serve on our board and on our Master Planning Committee, but this year as they wrestled with their own staff shortages and budget constraints, they never failed to assist us when we called for help and sometimes when we didn’t even know we needed it. They aid us in graffiti and litter removal, storm debris cleanup, tree planting and so much more. This month I want to highlight a few folks from that department.
Stephen Zurek, (Landscape Architect IV) represents Parks and Recreation as an ex-officio member on our Board of Directors and was instrumental in helping the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation obtain its largest-ever grant award to construct the future Larchmont Library Trailhead. Building upon the Foundation’s Master Planning vision for the trailhead and Via Design’s plans for implementing the amenities including a widened trail, a separate pedestrian path, improved stormwater resilience measures, and the much-anticipated kayak launch, Stephen wrote the grant for the Virginia Outdoors Foundation Preservation Trust opportunity. The project received the full grant request, making it one of the largest awards the Virginia Outdoors Foundation has ever granted, ensuring a protected natural space and access to the water in perpetuity. Without the support of the Parks and Recreation Department and Stephen spearheading this effort, the improvements coming to the Larchmont section of the trail would still be a long way off. What an amazing example of a city department and a non-profit organization working together to benefit our residents. Thank you, Stephen!
Steve Patton, (Bureau Manager of Parks and Forestry Operations) has long been a member of the ERT Foundation’s Master Planning committee. Helping to provide insight on everything from amenities and construction to wayfinding and planting. This summer during a particularly bad storm and high winds our Plum Point Park kayak launch became disconnected from the floating dock and was found near the Army Corps building at Fort Norfolk. How does one retrieve a kayak launch? Apparently, they call Steve! The details of this water-based kayak launch “search and rescue” are still a mystery to me, but Steve Patton returned it and re-secured it to its location at Plum Point Park. This is only one example of the constant behind-the-scenes work Steve is doing to make the trail successful, safe and beautiful. Thank you, Steve!
Adam Morales, (Maintenance Supervisor II) is someone we can call whenever we need assistance in the field. He’s a lover of plants and will always recommend the best native plants and wildflowers for an area. He has been incredibly helpful with assisting in our Pocket Park pollinator garden and tree planting and the coordination of crews for emergency trail needs and maintenance. Thank you, Adam!
The entire department was essential in getting the Foundation through the final steps of installing our first Hydration Station on the trail. Located at Jeff Robertson Park, our hydration station provides free water access at the perfect mid-way point of the trail and helps to eliminate single-use plastics. Parks and Recreation helped us with the permitting process, advocacy and installation expertise. Having water on the trail is an important step towards addressing public health and safety needs on the ERT. We are so grateful to Parks and Recreation for their assistance!
These are a few special shout-outs, but the department also includes all the folks who empty the trail’s trash cans, cut the grass on either side of the trail, and mow the meadow each spring, as well as countless other tasks that benefit the way our city looks.
In a citywide survey that drives the Parks and Rec Master Plan, Norfolk residents responded that trails are a priority for them. We are excited to continue working closely with the Norfolk Parks and Recreation Department in their Trails Master Plan for our city.
We plan every day for our future. In the world of transportation and infrastructure, we are often planning for projects that may not be executed for decades, but just like the early vision for the trail, there was a belief in what this trail could be, and we are grateful for those that have been alongside us on this mission to create a more connected city through an inclusive, resilient, waterfront trail. Truthfully, we could have highlighted many departments this month, because they are all instrumental in helping us execute this mission and vision.
The Office of Transportation is critical to our long-term planning, as is the Office of Resilience. Public Works, Utilities, General Services, Stormwater, and Neighborhood Services, are all part of our day-to-day operations. The list goes on and on, and for that, we are incredibly thankful! We hope to continue to be a model for a successful public-private partnership If you haven’t seen our feature article in a national publication, you can find it here. Let’s do great things together!