The obstacle course at Plum Point is Elizbeth River Trail's first signature trailhead. Photo: Kendall Osborne

Elizabeth River Trail Adds Creative Waterfront Fitness Tools

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many of us to move our exercising from the gym to the outdoors. And Norfolk has just made outdoor exercise more fun and challenging. A recently completed outdoor obstacle course, part of the Elizabeth River Trail, gives anyone the tools to get a SEAL-team-like workout right next to the river.

The site was originally owned by the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, and it sat vacant for years with limited accessibility. The Elizbeth River Trail (ERT) Foundation worked with the housing authority, and subsequently the land was donated to the city of Norfolk. The site has been developed as a public recreational space for the ERT’s first signature trailhead.

Most people use the trail for biking, running, or walking, but now you have the opportunity get a total-body workout as well, in the city known for a naval base that’s home to some of the toughest athletes in the world. There is an overhead ladder, pull-up bar, balance beams, and hurdles. Interpretive signs suggest ways to run the obstacles that you might not normally consider. For example, at the hurdles station, the sign suggests going both over and under the bars. Put your exercise imagination to work!

“We are thrilled to open the obstacle course when trail usage is at an all-time high,” says ERT Foundation Board Chair Kevin Murphy. “It’s a first-class amenity that sets the standard for future projects.”

The obstacle course sits inside the Plum Point Park section of the trail. This five-acre park offers views of Navy ships, harbor traffic, restored wetlands, and wildlife. There is a kayak launch. There are a handful of free parking spaces at the north end of Riverview Avenue, just past the Sentara building.

The rest of the Elizabeth River Trail consists of 10.5 miles of paved and well-marked pathways open to pedestrian traffic, including skateboards and pets. Boaters visiting downtown can get on the trail almost anyplace along the downtown waterfront. The trail passes Waterside and its food, the U.S.S.
Wisconsin, Nauticus, peaceful residential neighborhoods, and Fort Norfolk, which dates to 1807.

It is a delightful way to experience wildlife, history, and the modern harbor while getting some fresh air and improving your health. Some areas offer restaurants and restrooms, and some do not. It is best to plan your workout in advance. Just visit elizabethrivertrail.org for information and interactive maps.

-Kendall Osborne