This year, eight recipients were recognized with West Virginia’s most prestigious volunteer award – the 2019 Governor’s Service Awards – during a ceremony earlier this month at the State Culture Center in Charleston.
The Governor’s Service Awards honor individuals and groups who roll up their sleeves to solve community problems in innovative ways.
Among those recognized were Nancy Harris, 71, of Lewisburg. She is known to other trail users as “that woman you always see riding her bike.” She averages 50 miles a day, five or more days a week! In retirement, she has become one of the bike trail’s most devoted volunteers, helping to maintain 78 miles of trail, now a unit of the WV State Parks system in both Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties.
In 2018, Nancy took charge leading volunteer efforts to repair storm-damaged sections of the Greenbrier River Trail. She was the first to identify which sections had become impassable. In frequent contact with state park employees responsible for the trail, she learned that the state did not have the staff or funds to immediately repair the damaged areas. She took the initiative and led others to utilize Greenbrier River Trail Association (GRTA) funds to hire local contractors to quickly make repairs. In addition to this work, she also personally utilized hand tools to clear several fallen trees from the trail herself and enlisted the help of volunteers to open up blocked areas.
Nancy’s efforts in 2018 kept the GRT open for thousands of people pursuing healthy lifestyles. She helped to secure funds to repair trail damage, and to also construct two brand new shelters for overnight trail use and for protection from inclement weather.
In addition to use by area residents, the GRT has become a destination for long distance rail-trail enthusiasts and serious athletes who come to train and/or participate in completive events. In 2015, a study done by the WV State Parks estimated the economic impact of the GRT was $4.3 million for local economies.
Without a doubt, Nancy is a “hands-on” volunteer. Every week she cleans two public restrooms on the trail, carrying all supplies on her bike. She will routinely cut and drag tree limbs from the trail, creating an opening for people to get through until they can be properly removed. Her ongoing involvement is an inspiration to others.
Her knowledge of the trail makes her an invaluable board member on the GRTA. She has helped with grant writing, seeking cost estimates from contractors, and obtaining cash donations from private individuals.
Nancy’s love of the trail in contagious, her willingness to talk with folks along the trail often leads to new volunteers among those she has befriended. She has built an informal network of people willing to help by donating time and funds. The respect and trust she has established with state park employees has strengthened that critical public/private relationship. Nancy is a true ambassador, building community support with her ongoing volunteer efforts for the GRT. Her accomplishments in 2018 add to her considerable reputation, when Nancy commits, she delivers!