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Lansing man receives national honor

Martha Goss, from left, stands by her son, Doug Goss, as U.S. Forest Supervisor Tom Speaks presents him with the National Trails Volunteer of the Year Award.

Originally published: May. 11, 2013
Last modified: May. 11, 2013

Heather Samudio

Lansing’s own Doug Goss received nationwide honors on Saturday as he was presented with the 2012 National Trails Volunteer of the Year Award.

Goss was recognized for his service on the Virginia Creeper Trail in Southwest Virginia at the Green Cove Station in Damascus, Va.

The award is presented nationally to one volunteer each year.

Goss said he was first informed of the award approximately one month ago when he received a phone call from Beth Murz, an area ranger with the U.S. Forest Service.

“I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I could tell by the way they were talking, it was a pretty big deal,” Goss said. “I didn’t know what to think and I still don’t.”

Goss is no stranger to big awards. He was named Ashe County’s Volunteer of the Year a couple years ago.

For five years, Goss has been volunteering with the U.S. Forest Service, working strictly on the Virginia Creeper Trail.

Goss said he rode on the trail for the first time in 1997 or 1998 and then “visited it every now and then.”

When he retired from his job at the North Carolina Department of Transportation in Smethport, he had more time to volunteer and ride on the trail more.

Last year, Goss was on the trail about five days per week and said he rode 3,600 miles on the trail. He is known to ride more than 30 miles per day on the trail.

During a typical day on the trail, he said he would spend between six and 10 hours. He rides his bicycle between White Top and the Straight Branch parking lot and would occasionally venture into Damascus, Va.

He checks bikes for those traveling the trail, fixing flat tires, broken chains and even offers first aid to individuals with skinned knees.

Goss meets a lot of interesting individuals during his time on the trail and said many of the friends he has made are now like extended family.

One of his more memorable times came when he fixed a bike’s flat tire for a blind man.

“I was riding across a trestle and I saw this guy standing there with a white can with a red tip and he had a flat tire on his bicycle,” Goss said. “I fixed the flat for him and I’ve seen him on the trail many times since. He rides a tandem with another guy and he loves it. I thought that was unique.”

When he isn’t working the trail, Goss also serves as a mentor to troubled youth in the area through the Communities in Schools program.

He began mentoring in 1992 and is currently a mentor to two young men.

Goss shares his interest in the Virginia Creeper Trail with the youth he mentors, teaching the importance of protecting and improving public lands.

The national award winner takes pride in his volunteer work and his abilities.

He laughed as he said he has a box of magic tricks and can usually find a way to fix anything wrong with a bike on the trail.

On some parts of the trail, there isn’t any cell phone service. Goss said he carried a satellite phone last year, but this year he is using a “Wi-Fi spot,” which works off GPS coordinates.

“I can send a 911 distress signal which goes through a spot center and after GPS coordinates are found, the call is sent to the closest 911 center,” Goss said. “I hope this will help because we have had some pretty serious accidents over there.”

Goss said he didn’t want to scare anyone away from riding the trail because of the accidents that have occurred on occasion.

“It’s a good thing to do and a good day out,” he added. “Families can take their kids over there and it’s not strenuous.”

Goss also works part-time as a substitute school bus driver. He was proud to say that he was born and raised in Ashe County.

During the awards ceremony, in addition to the national honor, Goss said he received a blanket, a backpack and “a whole lot of recognition.”

For more information on the trail, contact the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area at (276) 783-5196 or (800) 628-7202 or visit http://www.vacreepertrail.com.

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.