Hansi Johnson’s name is pretty much synonymous with the “Great Outdoors.” He has dedicated his personal and professional life to outdoor recreation and so, it’s fitting that the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP) recently honored him with a Service Award for his outstanding contributions, especially in particular for his leadership with in helping the City of Duluth Achieve its goal of becoming a world class destination for Outdoor Recreation, as well as a better healthier place to live.
During this process of four and a half years, Hansi helped secure funding, marketed and showcased Duluth through his award-winning photography, journaling and speaking engagements, at state and national levels, and worked to develop authentic recreational infrastructure. All of this was done with a lens to help the Minnesota Land Trust and the City identify areas that should have protective land status so that both recreation and natural lands preservation can co- exist.
Some of the improvements Hansi worked on include the Duluth Traverse—a 100-mile long Gold multi-use biking trail that spans the City; Grand Avenue Nordic Center— with miles of new cross-country ski trails and the only snow-making capacity in for at least 100 miles; Quarry Park—an ice-climbing venue and community park; St. Louis River National Water Trail—as proposed, it will be only the second national water trail in Minnesota; and the Superior Hiking Trail—with expanded new loops connecting to other hiking trails within the corridor.
Early on, Hansi recognized that the outdoor community is not as diverse, equitable, or inclusive as it needs to be so he helped form a coalition of organizations called Youth Outdoors Duluth whose mission is to utilize local partnerships to engage more Duluth children in outdoor nature-based activities, regardless of background, race, income or experience. This in turn led to arranging numerous outdoor outings, developing a gear-lending library, and most importantly making a pathway to nature accessible for all.
“The City of Duluth made an intentional investment into the recreational infrastructure and the local community became involved and made the process sustainable.” An avid skilled listener and organizer of people and clubs, Hansi reflects, “It’s very fulfilling to see the community move their initiatives forward to the point that it has now become the fabric of Duluth.”
When asked about his recent award, he replies gratefully, “It’s truly humbling, especially when there are so many other deserving individuals.”