ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – It’s hard to imagine the Roanoke Valley without its robust greenway and trail network.
But just 25 years ago, that was the reality the region faced. While hundreds of volunteers and government leaders have made it possible, one woman has stood out at the front the entire time.
For Roanoke Valley Greenways Coordinator Liz Belcher, the time has come. After 25 years as the face of the Roanoke Valley, Greenway’s retirement is calling, and boy how far has she come.
“One of the first things I was told when I started this job was don’t even think about Roanoke River, that is not a feasible project you have no idea what you’re doing, get over it, we’re not doing Roanoke River, don’t even look at it,” Belcher said.
The Roanoke River Greenway is now a crown jewel of the region. With Belcher at the helm, the valley added more than 25 miles of urban greenway and 400 total miles of paved and natural trails.
“That always was sort of the goal, you know Roanoke River through the middle and then these things that go out north and south from there,” Belcher said.
Her work hasn’t just impacted people that live in Roanoke. It’s also been a huge selling point to bring more people to the area. John Hull is the executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership. His job is to entire businesses and workers to relocate in the area.
“I would say Liz Belcher was the catalyst behind the greenway network,” Hull said. “Liz had huge contributions to coordinating the effort, finding funding.”
Hull said the region’s greenways are a major selling point.
“The outdoor identity is key and central to Roanoke and the greenways are a huge part of that. Liz’s contribution can’t be overstated,” Hull said.
Even after she finishes emptying out her office, she isn’t going anywhere. Belcher said she’s going to live the greenway’s recently adopted motto to the fullest, adventure awaits.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to do trail work with the Wednesday crew, to getting out on the greenways more in different capacities,” Belcher said.
Belcher said her crowning achievement is the Hinchee Trail which connects the Salem area to Carvins Cove. She’s excited to see the Roanoke River Greenway continue to grow, eventually running from Salem to Explore Park.