(RATC member) Bill Gordge to Discuss the Art and Science of Trailblazing
There is more than meets the eye when it comes to creating outdoor trails that withstand the rigors of hiking, biking and horseback riding, not to mention storms and the effects of erosion.
Bill Gordge, whose name is synonymous with trail building in the Roanoke Valley, will share insight into the planning and strategies behind effective trail creation as the guest speaker for Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway‐Roanoke Valley Chapter Tuesday, May 13, beginning at 6 p.m.
The public is invited to attend this free community meeting at the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway office at 4419 Pheasant Ridge, Suite 101, Roanoke, Va., 24014.
The Roanoke Valley is home to more than 600 hundred miles of trails – including along the Blue Ridge Parkway. During the past 30 years, Gordge has helped design, build and expand the local network of trails, while also teaching crews and students about sustainable trail construction. “There’s hardly a trail in southwest Virginia that has not had Bill’s loving touch and care. Either he’s built it or he’s been there to help maintain and manage it,” says Roanoke Valley Greenways Coordinator Liz Belcher on a video that honors Gordge, after he won the Virginia 2013 Cox Conserves Hero for his work on the Roanoke section of the Appalachian Trail. “He is an artist at laying out trail. He looks at every tree and rock to be sure the trail is going to entice you to be out in the woods and to go farther,” says Belcher. According to Gordge, creating a one‐mile stretch of trail can take as much as a year. Right of way access, land contours, scenic overlooks, aesthetics, proper drainage and long‐term sustainability are all factors that must be considered prior to the first shovel of dirt.
“Every trail we build has got a story,” says Gordge. “We have loved developing every one of them. It’s great to be able to do it and work it through to completion. Then to see people on it… It’s just wonderful!” Since the Roanoke Valley Greenways started in 1995, Gordge has been the volunteer and trail maintenance coordinator for Pathfinders for Greenways, the volunteer arm, through which volunteers donate from 3,000 to 5,000 hours of service annually on work days, greenway promotional events and fundraising. Gordge, 85, a retired Roanoke pediatrician, got his start as a volunteer with the Appalachian Trail Club in the 1960s. As he approached retirement, he began to take Wednesdays off and formed a midweek hiking group of retired and semi‐retired friends. The group quickly became known as the Midweek Trail Crew, a working group that still meets every week. In January 2013, Gordge and the Wednesday trail crew were recognized by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for their work at Poor Mountain Natural Preserve. “We are fortunate to hear from such an accomplished, local trailbuilder,” says Heidi Ketler, chair of FBRP‐Roanoke Valley Chapter. “We hope his introduction inspires new volunteers to join Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway in trail maintenance projects and is the start of a strong working relationship with Bill and his group of experienced trailblazers.”
Based in Roanoke, Va., FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway is the only volunteer‐driven, 501(c)3 not‐for‐profit organization solely dedicated to helping the National Park Service protect, preserve, enhance and celebrate America’s favorite scenic drive. FRIENDS’ more than 10,000 members work to ensure the Blue Ridge Parkway’s future through stewardship and fundraising that supports volunteer service projects, as well as youth and adult education programs. In light of deep federal budget cuts and a significant decrease in staffing, the Blue Ridge Parkway needs friends and partners more than ever. To volunteer for, donate to or become a member of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway send an e‐mail to Roanoke@FriendsBRP.org, visit www.FriendsBRP.org or call (800) 228‐PARK (7275).