Passed October 14, 2019
Western Gate Chapter: Trailmaster in Blackwater River Section and Yellow River Ravines Section
FTA Awards: 2014 John Weary Trail Worker Award
In Remembrance of Ray Morgan
written by Ed Williamson
On October 14, 2019, Western Gate Chapter lost one of its most valuable and productive Trailmasters. “Blackwater Ray” Morgan, as he was known to his fellow trail volunteers, worked on the trail from 2010 until his passing in 2019. Ray loved the trail and dedicated countless hours to its upkeep and enhancement. He was assigned trail segments in two different FNST Sections at the same time and did an excellent job of keeping them in top shape. Using his considerable skills, he built bridges and benches and made trail signs. He put his welding experience to good use in repairing equipment such as mowers and trailers.
In addition to maintaining his own assigned trails, he spent many hours helping other Trailmasters with theirs, always being quick to respond when help was requested. He was well known for refreshing and adding blazes to many miles of FNST trail throughout Blackwater River State Forest, sometimes accompanied by a friend, and often with one of his “trail dogs”, one of which was aptly named “Blazer”. While more than 550 volunteer hours were logged for Ray, the real total was much higher, because unfortunately, much of his time working on his own was not reported.
Ray’s contributions were not limited to the outstanding work he has done. When a new tool shed was needed, he stepped up with a significant donation to help purchase it.
Ray was recognized in 2011 by Western Gate Chapter as “Trailmaster of the Year”. In 2012, he received the “Trail Leader Award” from Western Gate. FTA awarded him with the “John Weary Trail Worker Award” for his “extraordinary efforts as trail maintainer” in 2014.
Despite a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2015, Ray was back out on the trail in a short time. Although complications from the injuries and rheumatoid arthritis resulted in progressive physical limitations and pain, he continued to push through it all to pursue his passion for trail work.
Ray’s dedication to the trail continued into the last weeks and days of his life. After his condition had deteriorated to the point that he could barely walk, he continued to do prep work at his home for a badly needed bog bridge on one of his assigned trail segments. Cutting and drilling pieces for the bridge, his efforts were instrumental in finally getting this bridge constructed. As a longtime advocate for more and better signage along the trail, right up until his last days, he was asking other Trailmasters and Section Leaders what trail signs he could make for them, a task he felt he could still perform.
Blackwater Ray was truly a one-of-a-kind trail volunteer whose contributions to the trail inspire us all and will not be forgotten.