Orndorff honored with bridge over Mountain Parkway

Published 12:51 pm Monday, March 19, 2018

Verne Orndorff was, to say the least, a man for all seasons.

He was a poet and author. He was a public servant. He was a savage card player. He was a weatherman for the Army Air Corps during World War II.

More than that, he dreamed up and created the Sheltowee Trace, which ultimately became a 323-mile national recreational trail through the Daniel Boone National Forest.

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Sunday afternoon, friends and colleagues gathered at the Bluegrass Heritage Museum to unveil the sign naming the bridge carrying over KY 974 over the Mountain Parkway in Orndorff’s honor.

“Verne Orndorff was what we would call … a renaissance man,” Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner said. “He understood the woods and the woodland. He was a man who could turn a phrase. He was a man of the community. He was a man of faith.

“We don’t use that phrase much any more because there aren’t many people like that any more.”

Doug Billips, who became acquainted with Orndorff when he worked as the state trail coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Parks. Orndorff was working for the U.S. Forest Service as a landscape architect for the DBNF when inspiration struck.

“He decided he wanted to do something bigger and better,” Billips said. “It was his baby to put together a trail from the north to south end of the Daniel Boone National Forest.”

Originally, the trail was 248 miles long, which Orndorff mapped and laid out by hand and foot, often with Billips along, through hot and cold and thickets of thorns.

“You never could keep up with him on the trail,” he said.

The trail officially opened in July 1979 for hikers only, he said. Through the years, the trail fell into disrepair and sections became impassable. Steve Barbour of the Sheltowee Trace Association said it was created in 2009 to maintain the trail.

“The Sheltowee Trace Association came to the rescue of that vision and dream,” Orndorff’s granddaughter Sasha Wagers Renfro said. “Today, we and thousands of nature-lovers are grateful to the Sheltowee Trace Association for maintaining and preserving that dream.”

“It’s back to where it was when (Orndorff) flagged it,” Billips said. “He was very proud of the Sheltowee Trace.”

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@bluegrassnewsmedia.com or call 859-759-0051.

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