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The Roanoke Times | File 2008
Dr. Bill Gordge and Janet Scheid, Roanoke County's greenway planner, discuss trail work at the Read Mountain Preserve.
The Roanoke Times | File 2010
Bill Gordge inspects a dashboard of an old Ford Galaxie in the woods in Merrimac. With the Midweek Crew, Gordge has helped build miles of trails.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Bill Gordge made his first impression on me in the fall of 2000.
A public meeting to discuss a proposed rail-to-trail project along Craig Creek was being held in New Castle.
Gordge, then in his early 70s, stood up to speak in favor of the project.
Many in the crowd were opposed, but rather than politely letting Gordge have his say they hissed and shouted at him.
I felt sick, and felt sorry for the man, whom I imagined had to be traumatized by the treatment.
How wrong could I have been?
Gordge, I have learned in the years since, is not only a thoughtful, conscientious, intelligent soul, he’s a man blessed with seemingly superhuman strength and perseverance.
Those taunts bounced off him like lobbed marshmallows.
Gordge is 85 now and still going strong.
If you are someone who appreciates this region’s amazing outdoors offerings, and tread or ride upon trails to enjoy those resources, Bill Gordge has touched your life.
For four decades he has been a trail-building force in the region, his hands having shaped too many miles of paths to be counted.
Gordge has been formally honored for his volunteerism before, and he’s up for another award.
He is one of three nominees for Virginia’s Cox Conserves Heroes award.
If he wins, as he should, Cox and award cosponsor the Trust for Public Land will donate $10,000 to Gordge’s environmental nonprofit of choice, Pathfinders for Greenways.
As a finalist, Gordge is assured of getting $2,500 to donate to Pathfinders.
What’s great about this award is that the public gets to vote.
If all those who owe Gordge a debt of gratitude log on to the Cox Conserves Heroes site (www.coxconservesheroes.com) and vote, this contest will be no contest.
Gordge is a native Aussie, and his voice still carries that catchy lilt even though he has lived in the U.S. since young adulthood.
A pediatrician, he was a founding partner of the Physicians to Children practice in Roanoke. He practiced well into his 70s, which is no surprise.
Even before Gordge retired he became active as a trail volunteer, at first working with the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club.
He was the chapter’s president for a time, and helped start the club’s ridge-runners program, which puts club volunteers on high-use sections of the trail to provide support and education for hikers.
Of course Gordge also was a volunteer maintainer of a section of the trail.
In the late 1990s Gordge founded what became known as the Midweek Crew, a group of mostly retirees who get out there and work on trails on all but the most foul weather Wednesdays.
With many RATC members already working on the Appalachian Trail, Gordge saw a need for volunteer labor elsewhere.
While the Midweek Crew occasionally works on the AT — for example, helping clear fallen trees after last summer’s derecho — the group’s focus has been on other paths.
Much of the Midweek Crew’s efforts in its early years took place on trails on U.S. Forest Service land.
The crew has also worked in public parks, such as on Mill Mountain, Chestnut Ridge, Read Mountain and Carvins Cove, and also has been instrumental in the Roanoke Valley Greenways system.
The crew has, by itself, built more than 30 miles of trails.
The value of that effort is in the neighborhood of $500,000.
Gordge is not the kind of foreman who sits back and watches the crew work. He can dig and shape dirt with the vigor of a 25-year-old.
Unlike the 25-year-old, he is happy to do it all day.
The other Virginia nominees for the award are no slouches.
Jamie Walski leads the South Norfolk Harvest Share, which runs an organic garden for participants and the needy on what was once an abandoned lot.
Carlin Anderson founded the Herndon Environmental Network, which organizes events such as trash cleanups and invasive plant removal in the Fairfax County and Fredericksburg area.
They do good things.
Gordge has been doing great things for 40 years, working to help get people of all ages from the Roanoke region and beyond outdoors to enjoy nature.
He has positively impacted countless lives.
While he’s never done it for the personal attention, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it.
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