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Amanda Presgraves: Director of Community Enchantment

More From Amanda:

 

It’s with the most giddy enthusiasm I write this blog post! January 2024, I will be embarking on a new adventure and role within our vibrant community – proudly, serving as the Director of Community Enchantment with the Coalition! (cue happy dance).

 HOW I GOT HERE

My personal journey into trail running and mountain biking is rooted in discovering the transformative power of outdoor recreation. Personally and professionally, movement has been a grounding and formative part of my life.

I first arrived in Harrisonburg as a student at James Madison University in 2012, studying Exercise Science and collegiately swimming. 

A lot changed for me when I retired from a lifetime in a pool and ventured into the fresh air of the outdoors. I began as a naive beginner. Unfamiliar with navigating trails and quite geographically inept, my introduction to the forest was not one of initial desire or solace. While an avid bike and walk commuter throughout college (and still, this remains a valued and intentional aspect of my daily routine), I was unfamiliar with the recreational side of cycling. My first bike rides were in triathlon races – initially, made possible by friends who lent me bikes and gear. I knew I liked biking, but I wasn’t quite sure where to start. 

Returning to Harrisonburg after graduate school, it was through the warm embrace of a welcoming bike community in Harrisonburg—the constant generosity of sharing time, knowledge, equipment, and guidance—that I felt a sense of safety, belonging and energized. That this felt RIGHT.  I felt more like myself than ever.

Outdoor recreation soon became a bridge between my truest core and outer world; creating friendships, strengthening communities, and deepening my connection with the natural world and self. While it was school and work that attracted me here, it was ultimately the trails and the people that kept me. 

My very first mountain bike ride was a second date with my now-husband. “Ride” is a generous term as I hiked my neighbor’s 1970’s hardtail through our local trials in Hillandale. My start wouldn’t have indicated I’d 1. Marry the guy who subjected me to such a challenge  2. One day advocate for more opportune spaces like this or even 3. I’d choose to professionally race mountain bikes in off road triathlon. The mountain bike quickly became a medium of self- and regional exploration; a vehicle for relationships. Being a beginner on the bike brought a sense of aliveness I hadn’t found elsewhere. 

Through the trail, I continued to tap into a more courageous and fuller version of myself. Outdoor recreation has the power to do this; and more, for everyone. It was what inspired me to make Harrisonburg my home. I believe everyone deserves this opportunity, and it’s where my interest in supporting the Coalition originated.

SPRINKLING PIXIE DUST

I soon learned (and have a lot more of that to do), these outdoor spaces don’t happen on their own. Accessible, safe and welcoming spaces necessitate thoughtful design, advocacy, craft and growth through the human power of strength and voice – what we refer to as “pixie dust”. Advocating for our outdoor community and supporting the Coalition stems from the belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to experience the transformative power of the outdoors.

This region has woven its magic into the fabric of my life. Harrisonburg, and the entire Shenandoah Valley, holds a special place in my heart, and being a part of the Coalition’s work over the past handful of years has been nothing short of life-giving for me.

A NEW CHALLENGE

There is something beautiful about a challenge. Pushing your perceived limits—of the mind and body—it propels you into exploring parts of your inner world, and outer, that hadn’t yet been met.  I like challenges. I’d like to think the bike, the trails, my feet, and the people who surround me, all make me a better person. I immerse in the quiet of the forest and breath to tune into my surroundings. Noisy thoughts are silenced, clearing way for my truest voice. The trails are where I meet myself and others in their purest form. I’d like to think, that helps me show up in my professional life – right here – more fully, too. 

When I see new trails developing, such as Sunset Park, the Shenandoah Rail Trail, the Western Slope, or Harrisonburg Friendly City Trail, I continue to witness and experience the awe of life-enhancing movement opportunities – a moment of immersing oneself in  joy, a safe space to fully express who we are, and the ultimate relishing in the fulfillment and empowerment derived from movement in community. 

JOIN ME! Together, as we:

🌿 Share in the enthusiasm for SVBC’s expanding work.

 

🚵‍♀️ Break ground on new regional trails.

 

📖 Share stories of the extraordinary people, who are what make this place so special.

 

🤝 Create partnerships that get our dreams further, faster, with intention.

There’s a good chance you will find me with my friends, partner or pup at the Western Slope trails and our surrounding George Washington National Forest playground, working for the Coalition at The Perch Coworking or creating NonRecipes in the kitchen. I see myself in this role as a conduit for our collective action, a bridge between dreams and action. 

Please say hi, share your ideas. Only together can we continue weaving the magic that makes our community truly enchanting.

I’m curious – what brings you to being involved with SVBC? Why does this work matter to YOU?

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