With great excitement, pill we announce that Jim Foster, President of the Heritage Trails Partnership of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, has received outstanding recognition as the 2013 Distinguished Volunteer of the Year by the Mayor of Biloxi and the Commander of Keesler Air Force Base.
At a ceremony on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, attended by over 200 community members, the Mayor of Biloxi commended Jim for stepping up to become the leader of the Heritage Trails Partnership (HTP) after two years of working hand in hand with the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program. Jim has worked full time over the past four years in leading the effort to build a Coast-wide network of diverse trails that connect neighborhoods to schools, businesses, green and blue spaces where people can enjoy the scenic, cultural, historic and educational places.
Through Jim’s volunteer leadership, the Heritage Trails Partnership, based in Biloxi, is quickly becoming a well-recognized nonprofit known for its advocacy for best management practices for both land based and water based trails. HTP has brought together all communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in a dialogue about creating a network made up of both blueways and greenways where one did not exist. Jim built a diverse Board of Directors for the HTP including conservation, business, planning and health organizations which now leads the effort to create the Mississippi Coastal Heritage Trail, recognized by the U.S. Department of Interior through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Jim also champions the engagement of young leaders in the creation and advocacy of trails through his support of the Junior Trails Partnership, initiated by HTP and supported by Outdoor Nation and the Outdoor Foundation.
Jim’s commitment to promote healthy living for the citizens of Mississippi and safe access to places to exercise and recreate is making a difference in every community along the Gulf Coast. Jim led the way in establishing the interconnected, signed bike paths in the City of Biloxi and continues to promote economic development and tourism by promoting the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s outstanding natural assets throughout the entire USA.
Jim was instrumental in the advocacy for the John Paul Frerer Bicycle Safety Act and played a critical role in promoting the establishment of the Bike N Bus Program of the Coast Transit Authority which hosts more than 1000 riders a month.
Jim’s ceaseless enthusiasm and keen guidance has convinced local, state and federal leadership to establish new trails such as the City of Biloxi Bicycle Route, Deer Island Blueway, Gulf Islands National Seashore Blueway, City of Pascagoula Bike Trails & Blueway, just to name a few. These assets provide for family recreation and fitness destinations that did not exist before.
For the endless unpaid hours of hard work, for the many drives across the state to advocate for trails, for his expertise at building a strong network for trail users…many with very different opinions and perspectives….. and for his creativity and leadership, on behalf of all the citizens of the City of Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we say THANK YOU Jim Foster for a job well done!