Chatham Trail: Making the community greener

Stretching the Point

Newport News Green Foundation board members and staff include (left to right) Tami Farinholt, executive director; Ruth Deibler, president; Neil Martin, past president; Jim Erickson, member; Adam Creekmur, property chair (in back); Holly Kidd; David Singletary; Macon Whitson; Lee Ann Zelesnikar, secretary; J. Scruggs, vice president; Lindsey Carney; Donald Hatchett, board emeritus; and Elizabeth McCoury.

Chatham Trail serves as an oasis in the busy Newport News cityscape.

At the corner of Bland Boulevard and Chatham Drive, Chatham Trail is closely tied to the Newport News Green Foundation (NNGF) and was one of its first properties. According to Ruth Deibler, NNGF president, “The Foundation’s main purpose is the preservation and creation of usable space, intended to be accessible and interactive rather than simply attractive.

In NNGF’s earliest days, Tami Farinholt, executive director, says, “We needed to break up the concrete,” which speaks to the environmentally focused group’s consistent goals of accessibility and tangible impact. The trail is a perfect beginning endeavor for a now thriving organization.

Farinholt has been working with the Foundation for more than five years, and she is passionate about creating green spaces and educating people regarding the value of these vital spaces in the community. Farinholt stresses that “[green] spaces are more than just pretty places.” The social value, beyond adding beauty to the scenery, includes providing a location for togetherness and connection, as well as allowing kids to have classes and play outside. 

When discussing recent use of locations like Chatham Trail, Farinholt affirms the real health benefits of nature, “We saw through research during the pandemic how healing takes place when being outside and connecting with nature, and even just walking. It was so stress relieving for people.” Combining the stress-relieving properties of exercise with a peaceful outdoor environment generates a healing response, which speaks to the advantageous physical effects provided by a green space such as Chatham Trail.

As far as the environmental impact goes, the results support a trend of positivity. The preservation of native habitats and efforts towards reducing water and air pollution are a result of natural spaces maintained by the Green Foundation. Inhabiting the Trail are critters such as turtles, squirrels, ducks, geese and the occasional majestic heron.

A more artistic aspect found on the Chatham Trail incorporates a donated sculpture located in the middle of an onsite pond. “La Luna,” designed by Lars Widenfalk, a Swedish sculptor, adds to the serene atmosphere created through the environment of the Trail. “We believe this piece will entice people and make the Chatham Trail property even more of a destination to come and see the art while enjoying the beauty of nature,” says Danny Carroll, executive director of the Newport News Public Art Foundation.

One of the Trail’s social events, Picnic at the Pond, is a casual affair. Geared toward a widespread audience, the event offers a time to gather and have fun. With food trucks, live music and beverages, the Green Foundation opens this free event to anyone looking for relaxation and community.

Outside of the work setting, Farinholt loves spending time with her family and has a passion for gaining new experiences; her two children share her enthusiasm for outdoor exploration and excitement toward their frequent visitations to different parks. Farinholt says that when there’s a new restaurant in Newport News, she and her husband are there. 

TO THE POINT:
Chatham Trail
Address: 401 Chatham Dr., Newport News, VA 23602
Contact: Tami Farinholt, executive director, Newport News Green Foundation
Phone: 757-597-2842

About Ginny Hunter 2 Articles
Ginny Hunter, a Yorktown native, is a senior at Christopher Newport University completing her English degree. While at CNU, Ginny has been involved in Sigma Tau Delta and Delta Gamma, as well as singing in an a cappella group. In her free time, Ginny enjoys playing the ukulele, making crafts, taking care of her plants and spending time with her friends and family.

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