Virginia State Parks.
American Hiking Society’s list of destinations. Beginning early April, the volunteers were picked up at the airport and transported to the park. Fully equipped cabins with kitchens and linens awaited the volunteers along with a warm welcoming from park staff. With a week of building and maintaining trails ahead of them, the park hosted fun and exciting things to do, just as any vacationer’s agenda would expect.
Westmoreland State Park boasts unique area attractions such as the “Birthplace of the Nation” (where Robert E. Lee, George Washington, James Monroe, and James Madison were all born), wineries, museums, and small shops all within a few miles.
Group picture with Interpretive Specialist, Paul Billings, andthe volunteers
Ten Volunteer Vacationers were accompanied by crew leader, Brian Merrill, as they traveled from various areas of the country, each with their own unique story. Retired and enjoyingit, volunteers travel fromas far as Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, New York and Tennessee.
One volunteer was a retired physician, a surgeon from India who says his "secret to health" is being active inthe outdoors.
The group did not know each other prior to their trip, but looked forward to making new friends and building new trails. Besides being a rewarding experience, visitingnew places and seeing parts of the country is another perk to thisexciting opportunity.
Crew leader, Brian Merrill, enjoys new places and new faces with each Volunteer Vacation
With the destruction from last year’s Hurricane Irene, there was much work to be done to clear the paths that trail lovers once enjoyed at Westmoreland State Park.
Not only did the volunteers clear debris and fallen tree limbs, but blazed new trails adding to Turkey Neck Trail. Winding and running over hill and dale, the trail extends much further than before. The volunteers are given all the tools needed along with guidance from park rangers. The journey’s been a long one to revitalize the trails in the park, but with the help of this group, the restoration period has shortened.
Park Manager, Ken Benson, was very pleased and impressed by how hard and fastthe volunteers worked. He even decided to take a brisk jog that evening to “try out” the new terrain. “It was awesome, they did an incredible job…I was impressed!” said Benson.
Ken Benson (left), Paul Billing (right)
Throughout the week, Interpretive Specialist, Paul Billings, worked directly with the group as they created new outlets throughout the wooded land. The trail was extended in different areas, one significant spot overlooks a creek where beavers built a dam. The overlook is too beautiful for hikers to resist stopping and taking in the view. Benson talked about installing a picnic table at this sight where people can stop and take it all in.
Beginning of Turkey Neck Trail, leading through the woods to the overlook
WestmorelandState Parkis a huge park and has beautiful geography with great potential for growing trails. That is the exact vision these volunteers bestow. It’s more than a program that rehabilitates trails, it’s a chance to give back to the community while providing stewardship to our public lands.
Find out more about visiting one of our Virginia State Parks for a American Hiking Society.
Visit the Explore Virginia Outdoors website for enhanced maps and video tours of Westmoreland's trails. Call the park at (804) 493-8821 for more detailed information on updated trails or trail workopportunities with the Friends of Westmoreland.