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Ever pass by something every day on your way to work and think, I wonder what the deal is with that? Paulette Moore did. Only what intrigued the freelance TV producer on her Rosslyn-to-Old Town commute was the actual routethe 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail.
“What got me interested was these ‘plane spotters,’” Moore explains, referring to the people who congregate at Gravelly Point, alongside the trail, to watch landings and takeoffs at National Airport. “I was always like, What is going on with these people?, and then I realized there were so many of these little events along the trail, and wouldn’t it be interesting to sort of report from the trail?”
Which is just what Moore is doing: producing a series of radio segments, collectively called Life Along the Mount Vernon Trail, for WAMU-FM’s Friday-afternoon Metro Connection show. She hopes eventually to expand the vignettes into TV and print.
Moore set the tone with her initial piece, a report from Roosevelt Island that aired in mid-April (and is available for streaming at WAMU.org): She narrated what she saw as she rode her squeaky bicycle along the trail to the island, weaving in contributions from a park ranger, who remembered watching deer brave the Potomac channel to swim out to the island, and a local historian, who told the story of the 1st Infantry Regiment of the United States Colored Troops, which trained there in the summer of 1863. The trip also included a talk with a passer-by who riffed on his favorite Teddy Roosevelt speech.
If the mix sounds less than hard-hitting, Moore’s OK with that. “I’m really happy to be doing something within the community that is not too political,” she says. The spirit of her chronicle is captured by an offhand comment she uttered with true wonderment early in the Roosevelt Island report: “It’s just such an amazing thing to be riding along this trail.”
Moore gets enthused, too, about what she calls “the agility of radio,” noting that her TV workshe’s directed several programs for the Discovery Channel along with a well-received National Geographic series on vampiresusually requires a multiperson crew. With radio, it’s just a question of “getting on my bike and going.”
She’s gotten on her bike and gone several times already, stopping along the trail to tape stories at Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory and Fort Huntand finally getting to the bottom of those folks at Gravelly Point. Metro Connection will air those segments in June, and Moore has filmed a version of the Roosevelt Island visit as a pilot for a TV series that will expand upon her radio adventures. She’s not sure where it might air eventually, but she’s confident that her folksy reports on the trail will find an audience among the thousands who bike, blade, and walk it. Patrick Foster