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Trailblazer SPOTLIGHT:

Trailblazer SPOTLIGHT: Hencho

Name: Henry Chong (aka Hencho)
Job: Creative
Years lived in Norfolk: 15

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How did you get connected with the Elizabeth River Trail? How has the ERT been a part of your life? 

Growing up in Ghent near the Chrysler Museum, you can say that I was never too far from the Trail. I was introduced to the current iteration of the Elizabeth River Trail through social cycling groups in 2020, and after becoming familiar with the Trail I used it to build technique and self-confidence in my cycling skills. During Covid, cycling on the Trail became a haven for my mental and physical health. As a spacious green space with clear street markings, I feel much safer riding my bicycle on the Trail versus off, and still ride the ERT several times a week in order to commute along with various cycling groups for fun and exercise. Aspiring to be a volunteer champion in a past life, I became an ERT Trail Ambassador volunteer to continue the practice of
giving back earlier this year and have met amazing people along with doing some really cool things since. It’s an honor to be spotlighted!

What is your role on the DEI Committee and how does the DEI Committee Impact the work of the ERT?

Being Korean-American, an avid cyclist, and a Trail Ambassador, anything and everything that can contribute to diversity and inclusion with the Foundation and the Trail is my focal point! Along with being a constant presence/resource on the Trail, one of the main ways I contribute to highlighting DEI values is through my passion for the art of photography whether it be in events, portraiture, or nature. From the DEI committee, I’ve met a passionate, diverse group of people committed to raising the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility of all those who visit, live on/or adjacent, to the ERT

Do you have a favorite project you’ve helped with on the trail?

“Voices of the ERT” is my favorite project since it allows me to combine my passion for DEI with my love for creative content as a photographer by featuring the portraiture and voices of the diverse people who frequent the Trail through our social media channels. A close second was the 7th annual “Hey Let’s Walk” event led by fellow ERT DEI Committee member and city advocate, Erik Barrett, where we were able to meet with local Norfolk residents and host an all-inclusive group ride with my good friends, the Social Cycling Norfolk group.

How do you think Norfolk Benefits from the Trail?

I think that increased green space means a better quality of life for both residents and those who spend their time in Norfolk by connecting communities and promoting safe pedestrian traffic throughout the city with the added benefit of reducing car traffic and congestion. In addition to all of the benefits to the local economy through more small-business and outdoor events visibility, the Trail is a major enabler of Norfolk’s growing bike infrastructure and proposed future green spaces that we love to see!

Is there an event or aspect of the trail or the foundation that really speaks to you, inspires you, or motivates you to continue being involved?

Fostering the inclusivity of the Trail is close to my heart as a cyclist and lover of the outdoors. To see the growth of the Trail has been nothing short of inspiring, and being able to perform community outreach and stewardship through the Trail with my love for cycling and photography is very fulfilling.

If you meet someone who has never been on the trail before, what would you say to them to get them interested in it?

A walk/run/rideable 10.2-mile riverfront gem of a trail that showcases all the warmth and beauty Norfolk has to offer! From baseball stadiums to nationally recognized museums and scenic neighborhoods on the historic register, right alongside the beautiful Elizabeth River.

PS- the sunsets are breathtaking 🙂

What is your favorite place on the trail?

My favorite place on the Trail is the entire Freemason District route alongside the Elizabeth River. The sunsets there are the most beautiful. A close second would be the beautiful outdoor art installations right by the Larchmont Public Library portion of the ERT- what’s not to like about green space plus art? For my third place on the Trail is the spirit of gravel path sandwiched between the Weyanoke Bird Sanctuary and The Glowline (!) at Jeff Robertson Park because of the different terrain compared to the mostly paved portions you’ll find on the ERT. I have far too many favorite places on the Trail!

Favorite Trailgrazing spot? (i.e. best local food spot steps from the trail)

The Pagoda area in the Freemason District offers plenty of sunbathing and sitting opportunities to people watch while taking in the views and air of the Elizabeth River. Plum Point Park is a close second for its quiet, tucked-away peaceful nature along with more water views!

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