A Letter From Scottie
As we wrap up 2019, Scottie Pendleton (co-chair for our Board of Directors) wrote a letter to our Coalition family looking back on the past year. We are asking our members and broader network to support our community-centric fundraising campaign and please consider a donation to help us continue Building Better Communities in the Valley.
Greetings, friends, and well-wishers of the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition! The end of 2019 is upon us and I want to recap some of what the Coalition has done this year and tell you a bit about what we’ll be working on next year. This was our first full year with an executive director and we think Kyle has done an incredible job leading, planning, and supporting all the things we do here at the Coalition. As we expand our capacity, it’s essential to have his focus and effort to make sure we are able to increase our impact, grow our reach, and keep our work fun for our community of volunteers.
First I want to talk about what we did this year to Engage. This year marked the 7th year the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County Bike-Walk Summit where the Coalition brought together advocates, planners, public works, transportation officials, law enforcement, local businesses, and the community at large to dream up a vision for how to make the area a better place to walk, bike, and live. This summit has become a fixture in our local community as well as an example for the region in how to bring such a wide cross-section of the area together and how to facilitate positive interaction.
Following on this model, this year also saw the launch of the Augusta-Staunton-Waynesboro (SAW) Bike-Walk Summit which began with a ton of positive energy and momentum and will be back for its second annual addition in April! Board member Randall Wolf played a major part in spearheading this effort and bringing together the group that made it happen. We’ll continue with the summits but there’s much more in the day-to-day: talking with our local planners and officials and making sure the city and county master plans reflect biking and walking as a priority, and showing up and giving feedback for VDOT projects like the US33/I-81 bridge. We’ve got local and state governments on board believing that biking and walking infrastructure and facilities really do build better communities, but we need to make sure we stay in their ears letting them know what we, the users, need for it to be useful.
Once we engage we also need to Empower more people and support the efforts of our great volunteers. Bikes for Refugees, one of our signature programs, saw a change in leadership this year as founder Ritchie Vaughan moved outside the Coalition footprint and passed the reins on to Ihab Sadoon. Under their leadership, the program rehabilitated and distributed bikes to assist our community members with transportation. To the south, the Bike Box of the Blue Ridge got up and running thanks to the efforts of Coalition board member Randall Wolf and it is also rehabilitating and distributing bikes for transportation and teaching community members about how to ride safely in the SAW area. If you have bikes to donate, please look up both of these organizations and consider whichever is more convenient for you as they’re both doing great work!
Other Empowerment efforts included our annual Bike Month and our newly-renamed Bike Everywhere Day, which once again threatened inclement weather but in the end turned out great thanks to the effort led by Yogi Gillette (yes, I am implying that Yogi has weather control powers) and a cadre of volunteers. Thanks to everyone who put it on and to everyone who stopped by to celebrate riding your bike to wherever you decide to go, be it work, school, the store, or just for fun.
In addition to these efforts, we’ve gotten more volunteers involved with various teams that deal with fundamental aspects of our mission, including our National Forest Trails Team and our Massanutten Trails Team. We are committed to encouraging and soliciting input for all of our planning efforts and we seek many perspectives to ensure trails are for everyone. Thank you to all of our volunteer teams for working hard to bring our vision for a better world to fruition.
This was a particularly exciting year as we continued to Build. At the top of the list are the incredible new trails on the Massanutten Western Slope. To start with, Dusty Burchnall did an incredible job leading the Saturday crews to get the Creekside trail finished and opened up down low. It’s a true green trail, something we really don’t have enough of in the area, and it connects a beginner’s loop making the Western Slope more accessible to more trail visitors whether on bike or foot. Up on top of the mountain, there’s the Puzzler trail, the brainchild of Thomas Jenkins that took two years to build and it was well worth the effort and wait. Thomas led a tour de force of rock work and I dare say that this trail is art. The rock work up top is breathtaking. I recommend getting out there to ride, run, and hike it. In addition to all of our trail work volunteers, we also want to thank the Appalachian Conservation Corps for some assistance finishing these trails out, as well as Sam Skidmore for the machine work that allowed us to get these done.
While on the subject of trails, we’ve got a lot of exciting things coming in the next couple of years in the George Washington National Forest (GWNF). Thanks to the members of our National Forest Trails Team who took a major pull to submit a grant for more trails! The grant will allow the Coalition to reroute the western side of the “Narrowback” Trail, resulting in a couple new miles of singletrack from the Narrowback ride to the Wolf parking lot. Once that is done you’ll be able to ride/walk/run from the Wolf parking lot to Narrowback without touching any road! We’re also working with the Forest Service to help and encourage them to develop a trail assessment and plan. We expect this plan to layout the framework of a 15-30 year vision for trails in our region and provide us with opportunities for community engagement while developing priorities. There’s a lot coming there so stay tuned over the next year.
Greenways: while we can’t physically build every project (especially those involving pavement) we work to encourage, support and convince our elected officials and decision-makers to invest in greenways. This year saw the grand opening of the first section of the long-anticipated Northend Grenway. We work to ensure local governments continue to plan and build a network of greenways in our communities. Make sure you visit the first phase of the Northend Greenway to experience how the path connects communities at the north end of Harrisonburg along Black’s Run between Mt. Clinton Pike and Suter St.
This year was, as always, a great year to Ride. We saw the inaugural Mayor’s Ride in Harrisonburg launch with a great turnout and lots of friendly spectators along the route. For the 37th year, the Shenandoah Valley Century took riders on a tour of the lovely country roads surrounding Harrisonburg and Bridgewater, but for the first time, the start/finish was in Bridgewater. Thank you to all the volunteers who once again put on an incredible event! We also saw the 23rd edition of the Shenandoah Mountain Bike Festival which continued to showcase the incredible trails in our National Forest. The Mountain Bike Festival is near and dear to my own heart because it was how I originally got involved with the Coalition; this dude named Thomas Jenkins asked for volunteers to help with planning at my first Monthly Social I went to and it sounded like fun so I signed up, and within a few years I was running the thing and now also co-chair the Coalition’s Board of Directors. And that’s really the lifeblood of the Coalition: that infectious enthusiasm for what we do, and getting other people to buy-in and become a part of it.
I want to thank all of our volunteers, our ride leaders, our volunteer team members, our event planners, our membership, our donors, board, our executive director, our sponsors, and everyone who has been involved with or contributed to the Coalition in any way. We’ve got something special here. We’re working to build better communities in the Shenandoah Valley, making it a connected place where biking and walking aren’t just safe, but are comfortable and regular things to do every day. Thank you for sharing in our vision.
Co-Chair, Board of Directors