When you log on to any trail running website or pick up the recent issues of your trail running print piece you will read story after story of the best runners out there.
When you run a local race, you will see the best runners awarded with a podium, a prize, photos on social media and the adoration of Race Directors.
Your race photographers likely have more photos of the faster runners than those mid and back of the pack runners. All of this is a wonderful way to acknowledge the work these runners put in, we know it can be good for the sport, and is inspirational to many of us.
What about everyone else though? What about the person who built the trail you raced on? How about the people who have race results that are a byproduct from insane work ethic, but are not necessarily people who fell into a lucky genetic pool? What about the land owner that deeds access so a piece of the trail can run through in a perfect location for the events and training we do.
Let’s think about the Race Directors, and even better those incredible volunteers that you see at aid stations. Hauling water, marking courses, sweeping flags, building and maintaining trails.
How can we recognize these people? How can we give the people who make the sport possible the same limelight that we give to those who win the event?
We have decided to highlight them with a series called “Unsung Heroes of the Trail”. Here, you can learn the stories of the people truly responsible for the growth and sustainability of the sport of trail running.
In 1991 Dave Wright answered a newspaper ad that was looking for people to join and create a volunteer trail committee in the small town of Victor, NY. 29 years later, and over 65 miles of new trails, he is still at it, leading an organization called the Victor Hiking Trails – A trail system that is home to 3 trail races – The 0 SPF and The Bread Sticks Half marathons and The Old Goat Trail Race, and coming soon a full trail marathon as well.
25 people initially responded to that ad put out by Marcia Bryan of Victor NY. At the time the town had less than 2 miles of recognized trail, it was inside of what is now Fishers Park and was maintained by the Water Department! Soon, an organization was set up with a Chair, a Secretary, a Treasurer and a Trail Boss.
“It was funny, because we had no money but had a treasurer and we had no trails but had a trail boss”. Said Wright of the start of the organization.
With the idea to find land, and with the blessings of the Town board (which would give no money, but would offer it’s support) Marcia, Dave and those early members began looking for land. “A friend of ours had a 50 acre wooded lot, we asked it we could build a trail and they said yes. We named it the MonKey Run Trail which was the name of the road at the time where the trail head sat.” Said Wright.
As the years went on the organization was able to acquire/build/create over 65 miles of trails within the Town of Victor. There is single track, board-walks, double wide and rail trail. Many miles of trail are on private lands, which Dave and his crew have worked tirelessly to procure easements and insurance for. There is even some state land mixed in at the Ganondagan State Historic site. All in all the town developed that 2 miles of trail into a network that spans the town, connecting business and neighborhoods. Allowing for long solitary walks or bike rides with the kids. The trails are diverse some being easy wide and flat while other places have flowing single track the dives up and down over roots, rocks, and creeks.
Over the years Dave has seen much change along the trails though. More runners and mountain bikers are on the trails , he says. The crowd has gotten a bit younger and the way trails are built has changed. “We used to think of a trail in the sense of what a hiker would want or need, now we try to think about all the other folks who might be out there and that takes a different trail design.” Said Wright.
The Victor Hiking Trails started with 1 push mower and 1 trail and now has 3 brush hogs, a trailer, power trimmers, chainsaws and a bevy of trail building tools. 3 nights per week they are on the trails working to ensure they are passable for all the users who often take advantage of them without a thought of where the trail came from.
Dave feels that these trails have given the Town a sense of identity. People come to from all over to run the system and it was all built and maintained by volunteers, a point he is really proud of.
When asked why he has been doing this for so long Dave laughs and says “I got nothin better to do.” Then in a more serious tone he speaks to how he loves to contribute and feels like this gives him an opportunity to create and give back to his community. “Have I thought about stepping down? Sure, but I love to do this, so as long as I still can, I will be involved’.
The Victor Hiking Trails or VHT Hosts weekly hikes, work days, and more. Learn more about Dave, and the story of VHT here.
Thanks Dave to you and your organization for contributing more than you know to our sport!
Do you know of an unsung trail hero in your area? Are you an East Coast Trail Runner with a story to share. Send an email to TrailMethods@gmail.com and introduce us to your hero so we can be in touch.