Q&A with Jon Hoekstra, Executive Director of Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust
Weaving together the urban and the wild, Mountains to Sound Greenway connects 1.5 million acres surrounding Interstate 90. The Greenway Coalition is a catalyst for action, convening multiple interest groups with the common goal of protecting our public lands. Central Washington Outdoor had the privilege of asking Executive Director Jon Hoekstra a few questions about the Greenway and its significance in Kittitas County, here are his answers:
How did you become the Executive Director of the Greenway Trust?
How long have you been in this position?
I had spent most of my professional career in international conservation, helping protect some of the world’s most iconic wildlife and wild places. One of the things I came to appreciate was that the most successful conservation projects always involved local communities. When the Greenway Trust approached me about becoming the Executive Director, I realized that this was my chance to combine my passion for conservation and working with my own community.
What makes the Greenway special to you?
I know of no other place in the world where so much nature co-exists so close to a major metropolitan area – wild and scenic rivers, wilderness areas, world-class recreation areas, working farms and forests. That didn’t happen by chance. It’s the result of decades of intentional decisions and hard work by people to protect and care for the clean rivers and lakes, verdant forests and wild mountains that define the Greenway, even as more and more people moved to cities and towns. We’re all lucky to live in such a region, and I’m glad to be part of the tradition of caring for it.
Where is the greenway in Kittitas County?
The Mountains to Sound Greenway includes all of the upper Yakima River basin from Ellensburg to the crest of the Cascade Mountains.
In your words, what is the importance of the Greenway’s NHA designation?
Designation of the Mountains to Sound Greenway as a National Heritage Area signals that this is a nationally significant place. It also affirms that the history, heritage and culture of this region is a unique and important part of the American story. NHA designations are non-regulatory, meaning they don’t create any new rules or restrictions. Instead, NHA’s provide support for public-private partnerships to help preserve the region’s historical, cultural and natural resources, and to share the stories of this place with residents and visitors alike.
How can travelers #RecreateResponsibly in the Greenway?
Getting outside is important for all of us, especially while we experience this global pandemic. Recreate Responsibly was born out of the need for people to enjoy the outdoors but with a new set of guidelines to stay safe. I’d encourage people to check out recreateresponsibly.org for more information, but for a start travelers can make sure to recreate responsibly by following these basic principles:
1. Know Before you Go – Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don’t go. If it’s crowded, have a backup plan.
2. Plan Ahead – Prepare for facilities to be closed, pack lunch, and bring essentials like hand sanitizer and a face covering.
3. Explore Locally – Limit long-distance travel and make use of local parks, trails, and public spaces. Be mindful of your impact on the communities you visit.
4. Practice Physical Distancing – Keep your group size small. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
5. Play It Safe – Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained.
6. Leave No Trace – Respect public lands and waters, as well as Native and local communities. Take all your garbage with you.
7. Build an Inclusive Outdoors – Be an active part of making the outdoors safe and welcoming for all identities and abilities.
How can travelers give back to the Greenway?
Visitors to the Greenway have so many options for exploring the outdoors, and learning about the region’s interesting and important history. In addition to recreating responsibly, visitors can support local businesses and nonprofits like the Greenway Trust that are working together to care for this place and make it welcoming for everyone.
Connect with Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust online to stay up-to-date on local projects and to learn more about how you can protect the trails you love: