Board Member Spotlight – John Hopkins

The Foothills Coalition was happy to welcome John Hopkins as one of our new board members earlier this year. Originally from England, Mr. Hopkins planted his roots in Puyallup more than 30 years ago and has since become a strong advocate for the City of Puyallup, its residents, and the surrounding area.

The journey that brought Mr. Hopkins from the U.K. to Washington wasn’t a short one. In the early 1970s Mr. Hopkins was looking for a complete change of pace from his life teaching in London and decided to pay a visit to his sister in Alaska – a visit that turned out to last 15 years. He became an electrician and began teaching the trade until a downward turn in Alaska’s economy  spurred by plummeting oil prices led Mr. Hopkins south to Puyallup in 1987.

Starting his life in Puyallup at a property purchased from his boss in Alaska, he decided to continue his career on his own terms by founding an electrical business of his own which eventually led to purchasing property in downtown Puyallup. His increasing integration into the local community led to him becoming a member of the Puyallup Main Street Association.

“I really loved it here – the summers in Washington are unbeatable,” Mr. Hopkins said. “So after I established myself and my business, one thing led to another and I continued to get more and more involved in local organizations and government.”

Mr. Hopkins first became involved in local trails through the Friends of the Riverwalk while serving on the Puyallup City Council, and what began primarily as a duty to his constituents, quickly turned into a passion project. Before he knew it, Mr. Hopkins was a regular of the group, attending its weekly meetings and advocating for both improvements on and expansion of the Puyallup Riverwalk Trail on behalf of the group to the city government. 

At the time, there was a large overlap between members of the Friends of the Riverwalk and members and founders of the Foothills Coalition. Mr. Hopkins and other Riverwalk members saw the value of working together with the Foothills Coalition to achieve the groups’ common goals.

“It made a lot of sense to work with the Foothills Coalition and the Friends of the Riverwalk and the two have formed a great partnership,” he said. “One of the biggest steps in recent years was in 2020 when we planned to hold the first All Along the Riverwalk Festival and they came in with a lot of support.”

The All Along the Riverwalk Arts, Education, and Entertainment Festival was an idea Mr. Hopkins brought back to Puyallup after a trip to the Isle of Wight in 2018. More can be learned about the festival on p. XX of this newsletter.

The trip to the Isle of Wight is one of dozens of adventures Mr. Hopkins has embarked on since retiring 21 years ago. Upon his retirement, he leaned into his passion of exploring the outdoors, mostly through challenging mountainous hikes, many alongside his son. 

“I’ve found the best way to travel the world is through climbing and hiking,” he said. “I also love spending a lot of my time with locals to not only get a sense of the culture, but because they’re the experts and can help you truly make the most of your time.”

His accomplishments include summiting Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) twice, Mount Elbrus (Russia) once, and even reaching Mount Everest Base Camp (Nepal). To date, some of his most memorable hikes have been through Peru and Guatemala, while Patagonia is on his short list for future plans.

Despite his worldly travels, Mr. Hopkins chooses to spend the beautiful Pacific Northwest summers locally, hiking Mount Saint Helens (almost annually), exploring Washington’s volcanoes, and of course, spending time on the Foothills Trail.

The Foothills Trail plays an important part in Mr. Hopkins’ active lifestyle with his weekly half-marathons (each Saturday) and participation in Trail events including the upcoming B&O 10K & Half Marathon.

Mr. Hopkins hopes that during his tenure the Foothills Trail continues to grow and improve to best serve the residents of Pierce County and the surrounding area. 

“I foresee the Coalition growing into a bigger, stronger organization in the coming years. We’ve already begun a transformation from a mostly volunteer group to one that’s very professional,” he said. “The Coalition made a huge step in hiring our Executive Director Shayla, who has done so much to move our efforts forward.”

Mr. Hopkins hopes to play a role in attracting new, younger members to ensure the Foothills Coalition continues to thrive and advocate for local trails for decades to come.  

Photo: John Hopkins hiking Mt. St. Helens