ABINGDON, Va. — A local husband and wife have made it possible for two bike repair stations to be installed on the Virginia Creeper Trail in memory of their friend, who not only impacted the lives of a number of people but was also an avid cyclist.
Dwayne Ball, chairman of the Washington County Board of Supervisors, and his wife, Whitney, made a contribution to the Virginia Creeper Trail Conservancy (VCTC), making it possible to purchase the bike repair stations — one at Alvarado Station and a second to follow later this summer in Watauga, both locations along the trail.
The couple’s monetary donation was in honor of their friend, Dr. Samuel Hughes Melton, of Bristol, Virginia, who died in 2019 from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. At the time of his death, Melton was commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
Later, during a trip to Montana, Ball noticed a bike repair station along an outdoor trail.
He immediately knew that was how he wanted to honor his friend and cycling partner.
“Hughes and I used to ride the Creeper Trail together some. We’d meet and ride before church on Sundays — a lot of times before daylight,” Dwayne Ball said. “I knew the Creeper Trail did not have a bike repair station, and I thought it would be good to install a couple. Maybe it will catch on and more can be added over the course of the trail.”
The Dero Fixit bike repair stations include a tire air pump and the tools necessary to perform general bike repairs, from changing a flat to adjusting brakes and derailleurs. Hangar arms are also part of the design, which allow the pedals and wheels to spin freely while repairing.
“The repair station will make a good addition to the Creeper Trail and, no doubt, will be well used,” he said. “It’s a very fitting gesture for Hughes and all he did, not just for Washington County but the entire state.”
A dedication of the repair stations was held earlier this month on the trail at Alvarado Station. Sarah Melton, the wife of Hughes Melton, and their two daughters, Maggie and Claire Melton, attended the dedication, along with Dwayne and Whitney Ball.
Claire Melton spoke about her father’s dedication to fitness and the trail.
“He loved the Creeper Trail. One of my memories is every Sunday morning he wouldn’t be home when we woke up because he was already biking on the trail. Then he would come home, and we would all have breakfast and go on to church,” she said at the dedication.
Sarah Melton added, “This is such a special way to recognize Hughes, not only for his love of biking and fitness but how much he loved the Appalachian area and the Creeper Trail. Now anyone that needs a bike repair on the trail can learn about his legacy, and that is such an honor. The repair stations mean so much because he’s still taking care of people.”
Lisa Quigley, executive director of VCTC, expressed appreciation from the conservancy on behalf of all trail users.
“The generous donation for the purchase of the repair stations in Dr. Melton’s name will long serve the trail, providing for a safer and more enjoyable experience for our visitors and residents alike.”
Melton fulfilled his dream of caring for the medically underserved by opening C-Health, PC in Lebanon, Virginia, where he cared for patients in Russell County. During this time, he became board certified in addiction medicine and cared for his patients with substance use disorders.
He was awarded the 2011 Family Physician of the Year by the American Academy of Family Physicians. After serving in the capacity of a clinician for many years, he began his career in medical administration at Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon as chief medical officer for the Virginia facilities of Legacy Mountain States Health Alliance.
In 2015, Melton accepted the position of deputy commissioner of the Virginia Health Department. After two years in this position, he was appointed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to the position of commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.