Worth Working For
We all know the phrase it was worth waiting for, or similarly, good things take time. I don’t disagree, in the world of infrastructure, trails, and transportation we are planning projects that may or may not come to fruition and often it’s many years into the future before the fruit is harvested. Funding, capacity, community priorities, and resident needs are all factors that could halt a project. But all projects begin with a vision, and since we’re reminiscing on a group of visionaries coming together 30 years ago to imagine what is now the Elizabeth River Trail, we also get to share the story of the Virginia Beach Trail, a success story 43 years in the making!
I’m referring, of course to the $14.9 Million grant awarded to the City of Virginia Beach to complete phase one of their trail from the Norfolk city line at the Newtown Road light rail station to Town Center, complete with an amazing bridge across Virginia Beach Blvd., a dangerous corridor for pedestrians and cyclists. 43 years is certainly a long time to wait, but persistence, a united vision, and bold leadership made this project happen. The ERT Foundation has been celebrating this win alongside our friends in Virginia Beach because this means that in 2028 we will be able to connect regionally. Maybe at first just through a ride on the Tide, but our hope is that one day our community, our leaders, and our advocates will help us get there.
In her book Inclusive Transportation: A Manifesto for Repairing Divided Communities, Veronica O. Davis says, “Show me a transportation network and I will tell you the values of the decision-makers who designed it.” I’d like to believe that 20 years from now, as we all benefit from a regional trail system, South Hampton Roads is identified as a place that values equity, health, wellness, and a vibrant community for connecting with one another.
Regarding connection, I have no doubt that trails are at the heart of it. This month I was so grateful to partner with Visit Norfolk and the Virginia Tourism Corporation, (VTC) on a planning session for an Outdoor Recreation Tourism grant. Visit Norfolk was awarded a grant specific to outdoor recreation and VTC held a strategy session to develop a marketing model for outdoor tourism in Norfolk. In a room of over 30 people representing Norfolk’s recreational and tourism industry, again and again, ERT was at the center of the conversation.
What does outdoor recreation in Norfolk mean to you? For most of the group, it meant our vibrant urban waterfront. From there we looked at our existing outdoor attractions like our amazing Norfolk Botanical Gardens and the historic districts and tours our city offers. Next, we looked at what could be enhanced. The resounding response was the ERT, gateway signage, park activities, outfitters, infrastructure, accessibility, parking, the list went on. We looked at a two-year plan and a five-year plan, and in this room full of energy and possibilities on what would drive tourism in Norfolk, it was our own Elizabeth River Trail. I’d say what we do is worth the wait, and worth the work to get us there.
We always say, we’re more than a trail. I’ll leave you with some of the words that filled the room, coincidentally, they’re the words we used as we made our 2024 Vision Board: