The Washington Area Bicyclists Association awarded the Trail Champion award to the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail at the annual Bicyclists Choice Awards on February 13th. The award recognizes FOMVT’s efforts to maintain and improve the Mount Vernon Trail and make it safe and enjoyable for walkers, runners and bicyclists.
A copy of our award acceptance speech is below.
I’m honored to accept this award on behalf of the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail.
In 1971, two women from Alexandria, Ellen Pickering and Barbara Lynch gathered over 700 signatures asking the National Park Service to build a trail in the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Despite no funding and a lack of precedent for a trail on federal land, they convinced the Assistant Superintendent to provide the gravel to build a trail if they would provide the labor to build it. On the first day of construction, NPS showed up with 4 shovels. Ellen and Barbara showed up with 50 volunteers.
Today, that initial 4.5 mile gravel trail built by volunteers working through winter has grown to an 18.5 mile paved trail with over 1 million users per year.
As Ellen Pickering later said, “We were just women who said, ‘Why don’t we?’ And, we did!”
The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail was founded by three friends who said “Why don’t we?” Why don’t we shovel snow on the trail for five hours so people can get to work? Why don’t we remove trash from the trail in 18 degree weather on MLK Day? And we did! And we’re going to do more.
We all know something that isn’t great or would make biking better in the region. I’d like to challenge you tonight to do more than just grumble or fire off an angry tweet. Take action! Turn that tweet into an e-mail to a friend that says “Why don’t we?” And then do it.