The Trail Foundation has named Heidi Cohn its new executive director.
Cohn, director of development for the Hill Country Conservancy since 2014, will take over the post June 1. She replaces Brian Ott, a landscape architect who has served as interim executive director of the foundation since it parted ways with long-time director Susan Rankin last October.
“The Trail Foundation board wanted to go in a new direction and a board has the right to set priorities,” Rankin said at the time, adding that she is most proud of her work spearheading the boardwalk project, which closed a gap beneath the Interstate 35 bridge in the 10-mile trail around Lady Bird Lake.
Cohn worked in fund-raising and events for education and arts groups in Oklahoma, and headed up a cycling and running event there called the Red Bud Classic, before joining the Hill Country Conservancy staff three years ago. She says the new job feels like a natural next step.
“The Violet Crown Trail (a major project of the Hill Country Conservancy) has reinforced my love for hiking and the outdoors,” she said by phone Tuesday. “When I got this opportunity, it felt like I could take the skills I learned and relationships I’ve built working with stakeholders who are part of the trail community.”
Cohn says she walks and runs on Austin trails several times a week.
“I live in South Austin, and one of the things I love about the trails here as a whole is they’re free to the public and you can go and share in the outdoors with like-minded folks, and get exercise and commune with nature at the same time.”
The Trail Foundation, a non-profit organization, works to protect and enhance the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake, which gets more than 2.6 million visits annually.
“Heidi has the ideal combination of experience in the preservation of important natural spaces, raising private funding, and working collaboratively with city staff, elected officials, business leaders, volunteers and our other constituencies,” Ott said in a press release.
The Trail Foundation has ambitious goals for the next five years, as the trail’s popularity continues to grow and the need to protect and enhance it grows too, board chair Cassie Gresham said in a press release.
“Heidi is not only poised to lead the foundation’s continued growth, but will play a major role in the projects currently under way, including the new trail bridge at Congress Avenue, trail-wide ecological restoration work, and enhancements to the east side of the trail,” Gresham said.