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Looking Back to Move Forward: A Journey Through 30+ Years of Partnership at the Massanutten Western Slope

As the evening began, Thomas Jenkins shared a poignant sentiment, “In order to see where we want to go, it’s good to look at the past.” Seated alongside our almost 40-year collaborator, friend, and partner, Kenny Hess of Massanutten Resort, they delved into a rare and unique partnership that originated in 1987 at the Massanutten Western Slope. What has unfolded since then has far exceeded their initial imaginations.

A full crowd gathers around Thomas and Kenny, with each story, the audience travels across decades of partnership, trail building, and into the future of how this can continue becoming a multi-use community space.

Together, Thomas and Kenny took the audience on a nostalgic journey down memory lane, revisiting milestones such as the inaugural Hoo-Ha mountain bike race, the legendary Tour Du Pont, the World Cup Downhill in 1997, Mountain Bike Festivals, and the first machine project in 2000.

The room was filled with a captivated audience as each story unfolded. With every tale, the audience traversed decades of partnership, trail building, and gained insight into the future—a future that envisions the Western Slope as a dynamic and multi-use community space.

Reflecting on the growth witnessed over the years, Kenny remarked, “We saw a lot of growth in a short amount of time,” attributing it to the enthusiasm of the community, dedicated volunteers, and the support of Massanutten Resort.

The scope of partnerships has expanded over the years, reaching out to include the Appalachian Conservation Corps, race directors, hikers, runners, equestrians, hunters, and more. The Western Slope has evolved into a multi-use space that is truly unique and hard to find elsewhere.

For the first time, the Coalition is collaborating with professional trail builders to map out the next steps, projecting into the future—five, 10, 20+ years ahead. Drawing from over 1000 responses from the community, the trail planning process is informed by what is cherished about the area, what is needed, and how the space can continue to attract new enthusiasts while preserving the legacy of these trails for generations to come.

Over the years, Kenny has collected photos, maps, newspapers and magazine articles, documenting the past and making room for the future.

Over the years, Kenny has collected photos, maps, newspapers and magazine articles, documenting the past and making room for the future.

Thomas emphasized the importance of moving forward by “getting along, sharing the trail, and giving back,” sentiments that Kenny echoed, stating, “After all, this is a community park—it just so happens to be on Massanutten’s land.” Both emphasized that getting people outdoors is a win for everyone.

A special acknowledgment goes to Kenny Hess for his remarkable 44 years with Massanutten Resort. The Coalition extends gratitude to Shenandoah Bicycle Company for hosting the event and contributing a portion of sales to support their mission.

For those who missed the live event, the full interview is available for viewing on Facebook. Take a moment to witness the shared history, passion, and commitment that have shaped this extraordinary journey of partnership and community development.

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