The Riverfront Trail Committee on Wednesday, Dec. 23, honored long time trail volunteer Dave Neitling for his support of the trail as both a volunteer and a donor.
Dan Durow, who has worked on the project since its inception in the 1980s and currently chairs the Riverfront Trail Committee, said Dave and his wife Juanita have contributed just under $20,000 in material cost alone, and given direct contributions for trail maintenance of more than $15,000.
“They have been super volunteers, and super contributors,” Durow said. “He started when he was 72. Now he is 84, and still out there volunteering. He was up helping clean up Sorosis Park just last week.”
The committee presented Neitling with a wood-framed plaque, custom-made by Durow. The plaque thanks Neitling for his volunteer work and contributions, and mounted on the reverse side is a photograph of Neitling on his hands and knees, fixing cracks in the trail.
Also attending the presentation, held online via Zoom, was The Dalles Mayor Rich Mays. He said Neitling’s volunteer work was admirable and greatly appreciated. “He was just up there cleaning up at Sorosis Park," Mays noted. The city honored Neitling earlier in the year, noting that the award from the trail committee “was much nicer than the one we gave you.
“You have done a lot for our community out on the trails, and as the mayor I appreciate it, and thank you,” Mays said.
Neitling said his roots as a volunteer run deep. “My father was a volunteer fireman for 20 years, he raised money for one of the first motorized fire trucks for his department,” Neitling said. “My mother wrote a letter every month in her support for veterans.
“Service to the community is one of the most important things you will ever do,” he added. "That has been my motto for about 50 years. No, 60,” said Neitling, who is 84.
When cracks first appeared on the trail, Neitling worked to find a solution, eventually identifying a “rubberized asphalt” that could be used to fill cracks without being heated.
Neitling purchased some of the material, and tested it at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. It worked, and Neitling purchased more and began working on the trail, much of his time spent on his hands and knees, working the material into the deep cracks that had developed.
“I tell people, 'I’m married to the man who has crawled on his knees from one end of town to the other since 2011,'” said his wife Juanita Neitling, who also attended the presentation.
“Dave is my ultimate, top-of-the-mountain, as a volunteer,” said longtime committee member Bruce Lumper. “You have been an essential part of the trail,” he told the Neitlings.
Scott Baker, executive director of the Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation District, which maintains the trail, said Dave has been a personal inspiration. “When I see you out there, it’s really inspiring for me, and for a lot of people. Service is one of the most important things in your life. People like you are what makes our community a great place to live,” he said.
About the trail
The Riverfront Trail is a shared-use, paved trail that parallels the south bank of the Columbia River. When complete, the trail will span 10 miles between the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center to the west and The Dalles Dam Visitor Center to the east. Currently, there are missing segments just west of the Lone Pine Development, and east of US 197 to The Dalles Dam. The asphalt-paved trail is 8-12 feet wide, and the majority of the trail is ADA accessible.