A Conversation with Roanoke’s New Outdoor Recreation Specialist for Trails and Trail Programming


RIMBA hooked up with Renee Lavin to get the scoop on her new gig. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about the path that led to your newest position:

My current position is Outdoor Recreation Specialist for Trails and Trail Programming with City of Roanoke Parks and Recreation. I feel as though this position is dream job status for sure in a lot of ways. I have worked in recreation in various respects since 2006 and have a Master’s degree from the University of Maine in Higher Education and Outdoor Recreation. I have been a mountain biker for almost 7 years now and consider myself an intermediate rider. When the position came open, I was encouraged to apply by my current supervisor as I have experience running an outdoor program at Roanoke College, am a mountain biker, and have done a lot of large scale programming at Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing as the Assistant Director for Group Programs.

What are your responsibilities as an Outdoor Recreation Specialist?

My current responsibilities are to supervise and maintain the Carvin’s Cove and Mill Mountain trail networks as well as the other city parks that have trails in them–Fallon Park, Fishburn, and Fern Park. I am the Parks and Recreation liaison between the City and volunteer work crews, i.e. Pathfinders for Greenways, RIMBA, BRG. This makes me the point person for trail proposals, coordinating volunteer applications for trail builders, time sheets for work days, and doing some trail maintenance and construction myself.

I am going to start offering workdays through the City of Roanoke Parks and Recreation starting in December on Thursday afternoons since there is a need for more open to the public, not affiliated with any organization, workdays. We will focus on maintenance and new construction when there is a need for it. Right now, my focus is to do some maintenance and get the bridge re-done on Horsepens. It is a high priority in the Trail Management Plan that came out for Carvin’s Cove in 2010 and after the rains this summer, there are some culverts that need to be cleared out, a new crossing that needs to be built, and some trees that need to be trimmed back.

The dates for the workdays are: December 12th from 1-5pm, January 23rd from 2-6pm, and February 27th from 2-6pm. You can sign up for them on playroanoke.com just so I know how many people to expect and we will meet at the Timberview Road Parking lot with gloves, protective eyewear and sturdy shoes. I will have access to tools that the City already owns and we will work for a few hours on Horsepens, unless another project becomes more pressing. Going into the spring, things may change and I hope to get more workdays scheduled, but this is a start. I am also the point person for developing and implementing trail-based programming. Activities should highlight local and regional trails and opportunities include but are not limited to biking, hiking, and skiing. This is where the Roanoke 7 Summits program fell under my guise as well as the new ski and snowboarding shuttles to Snowshoe and Wintergreen. I offer Thursday hikes at least twice a month to local and regional trails, cross country skiing at Mountain Lake in February, and am trying to get the rock climbing program restarted here too. I will also be working with my co-worker Sarah Delise on revamping the whitewater kayaking section of the program overall. I am also here to help and support organizations who are interested in hosting a program on trail systems.

In September, I came out and helped Pathfinders for Greenways with their National Public Lands Day event at Carvin’s Cove and helped RIMBA in October with Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day. I just did a bunch of behind the scenes set up stuff with Nate Kerr, Wes Best, and Michelle Dykstra for GO Cross and am currently working with Rebecca Stimson and Virginia Tech Cycling on a Cross race at Fallon for November 10th. In addition to this, I work on larger department-wide programming such as GO Fest.

How will your responsibilities impact local mountain biking?

Hopefully it has a huge impact. That is the idea. We are the best trail town in the Blue Ridge and Carvin’s Cove is destination quality riding. It is my job to make the trail plan become a reality, which means more trails for more riders. I also am working on expanding opportunities for trail builders with more groups being able to propose and sponsor trails, hopefully I can advocate for more resources to be sent the way of trails–money for trail building clinics, tools, better resources out at the Cove, the possibilities are endless.

How do you envision working with RIMBA in the long and short term?

Short term, I am trying to help the best I can to get the trails you all want to have happen on Mill Mountain a reality. I will be walking the proposed trails, taking pictures, flagging, and going back to Parks and Recreation to advocate as to why these are good for the park and the surrounding community. Long term, I am here as a resource. People who want to do trail programs now have a name and a person they can go to for help. The City has incredible resources in the trails in its parks and I am here to help you all gain access to them for your programs. I think Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day will be bigger and better than ever next year. I will be able to market it more, we will have more mountain bike skill features built, which were a big hit with the kids, and we have bikes we can bring for people to use that don’t have one. RIMBA will also over time have more trail projects come up and I will be here to advertise workdays, organize the volunteer trailĀ  worker database, and advocate for the proposed trails to be built.

Leap ahead 5-10 years. What do you want your greatest accomplishment(s) to be in this role?

I want to see the Carvin’s Cove Trail System be much farther accomplished in the plan. We have a lot of trail that was approved–40+ miles of it–and a lot of people excited about building trail. I need to make that a reality. It won’t be my accomplishment though, if there were no volunteers, I would be moving rocks by myself. It will be the accomplishment of hundreds of people over thousands of hours.

What do you want people to know about you?

I am a “do”er. If I say I am working on it, I am. If you want something to happen and talk to me about it, I will probably come back and touch base with you on it a few weeks or months from now. Making Roanoke better is a passion. This place is a sick place to live for mountain biking, kayaking, bouldering, and just drinking really good local beer. I have the opportunity every day to do things that will only make it better.

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