5 Questions with Active Outdoor User Kemper Fant

You’ve probably met Kemper Fant. Or at least seen him outside.

He’s a big advocate of the greenways and has operated a photography studio in Roanoke since 2004, photographing weddings, portraits, and light commercial jobs. He also spends a lot of time outdoors. “Not only does it keep me in shape for work, but I know where all the good locations are!”

And the Roanoke Region is a great place for people – like Kemper – who love an outdoor lifestyle. “Roanoke is big enough to have lots of amenities yet small enough to see people you know wherever you go,” he said. “I love that. I love being a part of a community of people who know each other and make things happen.”

kemper fant greenway

Want to know more? Here are five questions with Kemper Fant, where he talks about the outdoors in his own words.

1. If you only had 2 hours to play outside, what would you do and where would you go?

The best thing about actually living in the City of Roanoke is you are always just a few minutes from a greenway, and there is an 800-foot mountain right in the city for you to climb. I can start out my front door and get in an 8-mile run, with hill climbs on Mill Mountain, and be showered and back at work in 2 hours or less. That’s my go-to.

2. What is the best kept secret place/trail/business/etc. that you don’t mind sharing?

The Andy Lane Trail. There are so many people who have never heard of it, and it’s tucked away out there in the back roads of Catawba. Despite it being part of the Triple Crown, I don’t think it gets the glory that McAfee Knob does, and it deserves it. Rolling hills, peaceful creekside, meadows, pawpaw trees, then on to great climbing. It basically ends at the magical Tinker Cliffs with stunning views and resting spots. How can you beat that?

3. If a person is new to the area, what advice would you give them on how to tap into our community?

First, start following the various outdoors groups on Facebook so you can get the scoop on upcoming events and an idea of who some the ringleaders are. Then, get out there and do some pub runs, group rides, organized hikes, and other activities that are regularly publicized by these groups. Most of them are extremely welcoming to newcomers. Second, visit our locally-owned outdoors retailers and businesses. The bike shops, the running stores, the outdoors stores, the rental shops; and chat those nice people up about what the scene is like and find out how they are involved. We have amazing local businesses that provide a lot of leadership and sponsor outdoors activities that are open to the public. It is a very friendly crowd out there.

4. If you could wave a magic wand and make something happen here (for the outdoor community), what would it be?

Poof! The greenway as it is currently planned would be completed, and we could start plans for even more! While personally, I love the more natural areas of Roanoke, the greenway system is something for everyone, and I want everyone to have easy access to it from their home and work, and I want them to have the connectivity that the completed system will provide. I feel the greenway is the crown jewel of our region. Sure, it provides recreation and health, but more importantly, it gives people a sense of belonging and community. I’ve seen how it has changed Roanoke in the last 10+ years. It’s been epic.

5. What is something our region needs to be cautious of, as we continue to develop as an outdoor community?

One of the biggest concerns I have is the introduction of technology to our outdoors scene, and those technologies are advancing rapidly. eBikes, eSkateboards, and eScooters are becoming commonplace with advancements in electric motor capabilities and battery technology. Should they ever be permitted on our greenways and trails, I’m concerned about their impact on overall user experience as well as their environmental impacts. They have benefits in that they could help users who may not be able to access certain trails and greenways due to health conditions or diminished physical strength. However, their proliferation with those users and others, and particularly their potential for abuse could negatively affect greenway and trail safety and aesthetic. I hope we are cautious because once they are permitted access, it would be very difficult to reverse course. Everyone should be assured the enjoyment of their greenways and trail experience, and balance is necessary.