Tyler Groff, a senior peacebuilding and development major at EMU, is doing an internship with the Harrisonburg Northend Greenway. Groff is a member of Earthkeepers, a student-led group that encourages environmentally-friendly practices such as recycling, composting and reducing waste. Photo by Jon Styer.

Groff Helping Connect Harrisonburg

Trying to get around the hustle and bustle of Harrisonburg roadways has driven Tyler Groff to greener pastures.

Groff, a senior peacebuilding and development major at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), began an internship earlier this winter with the Harrisonburg Northend Greenway, a bike-pedestrian trail that would link the Park View area with downtown.

Phase one of the 1.6 mile trail would begin near Eastern Mennonite School (just east of EMU) and end at the intersection of Main and Washington Street. A potential second phase would go tie in further downtown.

“The Greenway will also help people meet one another in public spaces, and strengthen this community,” said Groff. “It will also hopefully lessen people’s need to drive cars for short trips in town and help lower pollution.”

Thinking green

Groff learned of the Greenway through conversations with other bicycle enthusiasts at EMU’s bike co-op. The conversation sparked Groff’s interest, but it was a conversation with Tom Benevento, lead organizer of the Greenway, that sold Groff on the project.

Benevento explained to Groff how the Greenway fit into his concept for an internship–a larger vision of peacebuilding, extending into areas of human health, quality of life and creation care.

“Hearing about how it will help so many more people than just EMU was particularly helpful in piquing my interest,” said Groff. “Promoting walking and biking helps people get active and out of the house.”

A green valentine

Groff, who is in charge of promotions for the Greenway, was encouraged by the standing-room only turnout at a Feb. 14 meeting with city council members. While funding for the project was not finalized, Groff said the over 150 people who showed support for the Greenway emphasized the importance of the trail to the city.

“As Tom [Benevento] said in his presentation, all kinds of people were represented that night from infants to seniors; people from Park View and EMU to others from all over town… Such widespread representation really drove home the point that this is a project that people really care about and is important to people from all over Harrisonburg.

“This path will make it easier and safer to get out and about and experience everything Harrisonburg has to offer.”