The Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition, in collaboration with Pierce County Parks and support from the Towns of Wilkeson and Carbonado, is thrilled to announce the receipt of a National Parks Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance grant program (NPS-RTCA). This grant will provide essential technical assistance to engage the community in developing the Foothills Trail segment between Wilkeson and Carbonado, covering approximately 3.5 miles.

Starting in September of 2024, the project will kick off with community outreach effort to gather input on the trail’s design. Expected to last a year, this work will culminate in conceptual design to inform the next phase of Foothills Trail development toward Mount Rainier National Park.

The NPS-RTCA program is instrumental in supporting locally driven conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives nationwide. By assisting communities and public land managers in park development, restoration, and the creation of outdoor recreation opportunities, the NPS-RTCA program fosters engagement in the outdoors for future generations.

The Carbon Glacier Corridor in eastern Pierce County serves as the gateway to the northwest section of Mount Rainier National Park, encompassing the rural communities of Wilkeson and Carbonado. Within this corridor lies the undeveloped section of the Foothills Trail. Recognizing the potential of this area, Pierce County, as the primary landowner, has enlisted the support of the Foothills Coalition to leverage its strong community ties and partnership-building expertise.

Developing this trail offers numerous benefits. Rural trails provide sustainable solutions for active transportation, promote health and well-being, foster community connectivity, reduce reliance on motorized transport and contribute to healthier lifestyles. Additionally, increased foot traffic along trails supports local businesses and stimulates economic growth.

The Foothills Coalition and Pierce County Parks express profound gratitude to the National Parks Service for its support and look forward to engaging with local communities to bring the vision of a vibrant, accessible Foothills Trail to life.

About Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition:
The Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition is the supporting 501(c)(3) non-profit organization of the Foothills National Recreation Trail. The Coalition works to expand, fund, maintain, promote and advocate for an accessible and inclusive trail system from Mt. Rainier National Park to Puget Sound, fostering recreation, health, active transportation, economic growth, and environmental and historic preservation. Learn more at 

About Pierce County Parks:
Pierce County Parks maintains over 5,200 acres at 44 park sites, including three recreation centers, a sports complex, ice rink, skateboard park, two boat launch sites, two golf courses, trail corridors, a disc golf course, and many passive open space sites through Pierce County’s Conservation Futures system. We also offer a variety of special events, programs and activities for all ages and ability levels. Learn more at

About National Parks Service – Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program:
The NPS-RTCA program supports locally-led conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the United States, assisting communities and public land managers in developing or restoring parks, conservation areas, rivers, and wildlife habitats, as well as creating outdoor recreation opportunities and programs. Learn more at


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

By Dan Bucci

The Foothills Coalition held the 22nd annual Rainier to Ruston Relay on Saturday, June 1st, 2024. The event is always held on the first Saturday of June to celebrate National Trails Day. This event has become a hallmark of the Pacific Northwest Running community, and is one of the biggest races held in the South Sound area. This year saw a huge increase in participation, with 325 teams, and 20 solo runners. With just around 1,600 runners participating in the event, this was the 2nd largest Rainier to Ruston in the event’s history, only behind 2019 which had just under 2,000 participants. This year’s event however did take in the most revenue ever, which is fantastic as this is the single largest revenue source for the Coalition’s operating budget every year!

Participants in the race cover about 53 miles, running from the Carbon River entrance of Mount Rainier National Park and finishing along the Tacoma Waterfront in Cummings Park along Ruston Way. Participants may choose to tackle the distance as 6-person, 4-person, 3-person, or 2-person teams, with each team member taking on multiple “legs” of the event. A few hearty souls (we had 20 this year) chose to run the entire length by themselves! But it’s not just the runners doing lots of work on race day! In the days leading up to the event, there are hundreds of hours poured into marking the course, getting the race equipment cleaned and staged, putting together race packets, and making sure we are prepared to host 1,600 runners. On race day itself, there are somewhere around 100 volunteers that help out at the start line, along the course, and at the finish line to make sure the event goes off without a hitch!

This year we also had extremely generous sponsors, with cash sponsorships from the Port of Tacoma, and Par Pacific, a donation of beer for the beer garden from Silver City Brewing and Athletic Brewing Company, and cookies donated by Farm 12 for all runners at the Meeker Exchange. 

The goal of the event is not to simply raise funds for the coalition, but also to showcase the existing trail, and the corridors where we are working to extend the trail. Participants begin the race running along the Carbon River, and through the Carbon Canyon through the communities of Carbonado and Wilkeson. They then pick-up the completed portions of the Foothills Trail in South Prairie, run through Orting, and into Puyallup. After Puyallup, runners navigate the levee trail and various roads as they traverse through Fife and Tacoma until they arrive at the Museum of Glass in Downtown Tacoma. They then complete the race mostly on park paths and sidewalks along the Tacoma Waterfront and finish on Ruston Way. The race path largely follows the path where we envision having a completed, non-motorized trail, connecting Mount Rainier to the Puget Sound.

Teams are encouraged to decorate their vehicles, come up with creative team names, and run in costumes to add more fun to the day. After finishing the race, runners are treated to a beer garden, and some light refreshments at the finish line while a DJ spins tunes. This year, we also had massages and sno-cones available for purchase! It was great to walk around and see so many people supporting our trail and running for a good cause. The 2024 event felt to me like the most organized, well executed R2R we’ve had to date. I’m looking forward to carrying that momentum into the 2025 event and making that the BIGGEST and BEST R2R in the event’s history!


Photo by: Fast Focus Photography NW

We will hold an election on January 25, 2024 to elect new board members. Get to know the candidates here!

David Lee

My wife Carla (61) and I (71) live in Tacoma and are proud parents of four children, two daughters and identical twin sons. We’ve been fit and active all our lives and among our many interests, cycling and travel are two of our favorites and we’ve supported and cycled the Foothills Trails for a long time. We’ve cycled the Pacific Coast Bike Route from Tacoma to Santa Barbara, the Coeur d’Alene Bike Trail, and many other regional bike trails in Washington, Oregon, and California.

We’re also avid backpackers having trekked the 380 km John Muir Trail (Yosemite to Mt. Whitney), the 67 km Timberline Trail (Mt. Hood), and the 153 km Wonderland Trail (Mt. Rainier) twice. Now we’re planning a 1250 km cycling journey from the headwaters of the Rhine River in the Swiss Alps downstream to Amsterdam next summer.

Our volunteering stints include living in Costa Rica, teaching English in Argentina, Ukraine as Peace Corps Volunteers, and at Baan Chivit Mai (Swedish-run NGO providing housing & education to hill tribe children) in Chiangrai, Northern Thailand.

Audrey Pitigliano

I’ve lived in Pierce County all my life from childhood in Steilacoom, to my home in Puyallup since the early 1980’s. My first love and college degree was in Recreation from WSU. I was thrilled when I first heard about the idea to convert the railway and periodically used and supported the trail as it got developed and I have loved every addition.

I worked in Buckley since the early 1980’s and often used the trail during my lunch break or with clients for recreational pursuits. I retired in 2020 and biking, hiking, and walking on the trails was a life saver during COVID and continues to be in my retirement.

I am running for a spot on the FTC Board to help support and sustain all the hard work that has already been done, and to advance more safe connections to our trails/parks across Pierce County. I look forward to using my skills to advocate for equal access to recreational opportunities and programs within the trail system, for persons of all ages, genders, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, and physical/cognitive abilities.

Victoria Lincoln

I’m a lifelong resident of Pierce County and very supportive of projects like this Trail that get people outdoors. I have a degree from Evergreen State College and spent most of my career in Olympia, advocating for local governments in front of the Legislature. It would be a pleasure to be able to serve on this Board and hope my experience in state government can be useful.

The Foothills Trail is one of the jewels of Pierce County. One of my favorite things to do is to ride the Trail on my mountain bike. It’s amazing how many people I see enjoying it – walkers, runners, bikes, skateboards, and strollers, to name a few. I’ve even seen a unicycle along the trail on more than one occasion. It’s gratifying to see the community embrace the trail and all it has to offer.

John Hopkins

I left London, England in my early 20’s to visit my sister in Anchorage, Alaska and ended up staying 15 years. I became an electrician, met my wife and had three children. It was a rags to riches to rags story that ended with us all driving down the Alcan Highway in a brown station wagon with suitcases strapped to the top. We ended up in Puyallup and started an electrical construction company.

All went well until the last recession, but closing the business was a blessing in disguise. It freed up time for treks and climbs throughout the world and to give back to the community. I joined the boards of Arts Downtown and Pierce Conservation District and now serve on multiple committees with other organizations. I currently work with the Foothills Coalition in my position of Chair of Friends of the Riverwalk and founder of the All Along the Riverwalk Arts and Education event, which has successfully showcased our local trails. I would be honored to become a Foothills Rails to Trails Coalition board member.

Robin Partington (running for reelection)

My late husband Don Partington and I first became involved with the Foothills Trail Coalition in 1987 when we volunteered to help staff the Coalition’s booth at the Washington State Fair, accompanied by our then-six month old son, Daniel. Dan is now 35 with a six month old daughter of his own who will soon experience the joy of trails from a jogging stroller.

I enthusiastically support and use urban, rural and wilderness trails. I look forward to working with the Board to further the Coalition’s mission in support of trails and trail users. As a Board member, I have been helping with the capital campaign for the Foothills Trails Doc Tait Pavilion in Buckley, where Dr. Douglas “Doc” Tait founded the Foothills Tails-to-Trails Coalition and where the first mile of the Foothills Trail was completed.

Steve Brown (running for reelection)

I’ve been involved with the Foothills Trail as a volunteer for over 30 years (over half my lifetime). Lately, I have focused on county connections: Foothills Trail north to Sumner and then the Interurban; Yelm to Roy; and of course our favorite, from Mount Rainier to Tacoma using the R2R route.

I also have been spending a lot more time in the Carbon Canyon, which is everything above the town of Wilkeson. It is a great area for hiking, biking, fishing and camping. This is also the access to the northwest corner of Mount Rainier National Park.