Board of Directors

Washington Water Trails Association Board of Directors sets policy and guidelines for programming, advocacy, and activities of the organization while working to ensure that recreational public access to the water is preserved and expanded throughout Washington State. If you are interested in serving our organization and would like to learn more, please contact us.

Mike Acker – Board Director

Mike has worked with Information Security Analysis Internap Network Services in Seattle, managing the information security department and direction for a network service provider spanning 15 countries, as a Senior Technology Risk Consultant at Protiviti and as a Security Engineer with Harrison & Belmont LLC leading a 3 person team providing security and networking services for non-profit organizations including Premera Blue Cross, American Cancer Society, and Arthritis Foundation. Mike has a degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Liberal Arts and Sciences and from Parkland College (Champaign) in Computer Science and Mathematics. He’s also been on the Board of Directors, Puget Sound ISSA (Developing and Connecting Cybersecurity Leaders Globally). Mike is an avid paddler.

Adam Brandt – Board Director, Secretary

Adam is new to the board and navigating Washington’s waterways in general, but feels passionate about WWTA’s mission and respecting the diverse biosphere represented by Washington State. His day job involves consulting with remote clients for Ensighten, a San Jose based start-up with a proven history of enabling companies to better understand their customers by providing real-time solutions to improved data management. He has a long history of both volunteering and actively enjoying nature, and feels it’s a privilege to give back to the outdoor community while promoting responsible stewardship through the WWTA.

Don Crook – Board Director

Don has recently returned to the WWTA Board, and is a former 2-term Board President. He is a retired business manager with a career in general operations, materials, and quality management of heavy-duty manufacturing in the U.S. and Europe. He returned to the Northwest in 2007 and rejoined old friends with new-found time to dedicate to outdoor activities of hiking, biking and kayaking. Presently, Don serves on the board of the Washington State Trails Coalition and he is the Sea Kayaking Chair of the Foothills Branch of The Mountaineers. Don also volunteers with the Washington Trails Association and he manages to section-hike the Pacific Crest Trail in his spare time.

Larry Fairleigh – Board Director

Larry graduated with a degree in Natural Resources Management from the University of Washington…Masters in Park Design from Colorado St University…..worked for five years as a park manager for Colorado State Parks managing the 72,000 acre Colorado State Forest adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park and later the Cherry Creek State Recreation Area in suburban Denver.  He moved back to Washington in 1978 to take a position with the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation (IAC) now known as the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO).  He worked there for fourteen years including several years as the Chief of the Projects Division and Acting Director for several months.  He came to Washington State Parks in 1992.  After a two year term as Chief of Long Range Planning he became, in 1994, an Assistant Director with leadership for statewide; capital construction and park renovation, land acquisitions and real estate management, visioning and planning, stewardship, environmental policy and permitting, and historic preservation for the largest collection of historic structures in the state. Responsibilities included extensive policy development on public process with elected officials at every level of government in the state.

Adam Fyall – Board Director

Adam is the Sustainable Development Manager for Benton County, Washington. Adam came to Benton County as a newly-minted college graduate in 1995 where he worked in the Planning Department. In 1999 he joined the Commissioners’ Office, serving as the County’s Hanford Reach Coordinator working on long-range planning and management matters related to preservation and protection of the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River. In 2002, Adam helped establish the Office of Sustainable Development as the County’s Community Development Coordinator. He assumed management of that office in 2007, whereby he oversees the Parks Department and is the Commissioners’ primary project manager. His primary focus areas are natural resources, economic development, and intergovernmental relations. In the community, Adam has volunteered for Junior Achievement, Second Harvest, and Northwest Public Radio, has served on the City of Richland’s Parks and Recreation Commission for 14 years, and has been a member of the Tapteal Greenway Association’s Board of Directors since 1996. Adam earned his baccalaureate in geography from Central Washington University in 1994, and later his master’s in public administration from the University of Washington in 2014. Born and raised in Seattle, Adam currently lives in Richland, Washington, where he enjoys gardening, fishing, and hiking. He has completed over 50 marathons, and has visited all 50 states.

Nathan Grothe – Board Director, President

Nathan has been a kayaker since he moved to Seattle in 1996 and has worked in the outdoor industry for over 20 years.  He has spent the majority of his career at REI, where he is currently a buyer in the watersports and snowsports categories.  He enjoys paddling, backpacking, skiing, and camping with his wife Kasey and their children Jonathan and Eleanor.  Nathan is honored to support WWTA’s work to ensure access to paddling destinations across the state of Washington.

Josh Kawinski – Board Director

Josh is a community development professional who has worked for the past 10 years growing partnerships and developing relationships for REI and most recently Microsoft. A native Washingtonian, Josh graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Marketing and International Business. He is an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys spending time outside with his wife Lori and their family. Honored to be a member of the board, he is passionate about fostering the mission and values of Washington Water Trails.

Liberty Miller Board Director

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Liberty Miller grew up with a deep love of nature, the ocean in particular. Some of her best memories are of paddling around the lakes of Oregon with her grandpa and her dad. In 2010, Liberty moved overseas for several years and became heavily involved in the marine conservation movement. In 2014, she ventured to Alaska and was a kayak and hiking guide aboard a small passenger vessel in Southeast. Once home from Alaska, she moved to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island and worked as a kayak guide and deckhand/naturalist aboard whale watch boats. She now is a kayak instructor at the Community Boating Center in Bellingham and also owns a kayak instruction and guide company called Kulshan Kayak Academy. Liberty holds her USCG 100 ton master captain license, her rescue diver license, has advanced first aid training and is a certified marine naturalist.

Tim Niemier – Board Director

Tim is a designer of watercraft currently focusing on kayaks and stand up paddleboards. He is credited with introducing the sit-on-top (SOT) kayak design. In January 1988, Tim founded kayak manufacturing and sales company, Ocean Kayak, to produce these unique kayaks using polyethylene. Ocean Kayak was producing upwards of 200 kayaks per day when its assets were purchased in 1997 by Johnson Outdoors. Since selling Ocean Kayak, Tim has been providing custom design services and creating new lines of stand up paddleboards and other watercraft for manufacturers and individuals.

Fran Troje – Board Director, Treasurer

Fran is pleased to serve again as an active, networked, and dedicated Director on the WWTA Board during this time of fiscal challenges, staffing transition, membership and volunteer development. Bringing past board, committee and task force chair experiences to work with the Board of Directors, Administration and staff, members and volunteers to identify issues, embrace solutions and explore exciting new ventures.  Past, recent and current positions that relate to WWTA operations include participation in the founding committees for the Trade Association of Sea Kayakers, the Washington Water Trails Association, Friends of Washington State Parks, and Friends of Green River … actively serving many years on those boards.  Other past boards include:  Volunteers for Outdoor Washington, Washington Kayak Club, Paddle Trails Canoe Club, Washington State Trails Coalition, Green River Coalition and River Safety Council.  Forty years of active participation in Mountaineer activities include several board appointed chair positions: Membership Advisory Committee (MAC) chair, Conservation Division Chair, Recreational Resource Division Chair, and Chair of the Foothills Branch.  As appointed MAC Chair, (late 1980 to mid 1990), developed and implemented strategies that increased membership from 11,000 to 16,500, In mid 1990’s chartered and implemented the Sea Kayaking Activity and the Whitewater Kayaking Activity .  In 2004 petitioned,  chartered and administered the Foothills Branch of the Mountaineers, remaining chair and recruiting volunteers and members until late 2013.  Adding a seventh branch to their roster of six regional branches, the Foothills Branch continues to be the fastest growing branch, providing courses for learning outdoor skills, teaching experiences and volunteer opportunities. Implementing those similar strategies for growth and outreach for WWTA makes this latest board position as exciting as earlier terms;  1990-1994 as President at which time WWTA was certified as a WA State Non-Profit, applied for and received the IRS 501(c)(3) determination, an  in 1993 sponsored HB1650 establishing the Washington Water Trail Program in Washington State Parks and Recreation, and initiated the bill in Congress to  establish the Cascadia Marine Trail as a National Recreational Trial  … later in 1994.   Continuing that activism to current legislation, as an advocate for public access to public waterways assisted in sponsoring ‘the Bridge Bill’, HB6363 which was signed into law in 2016.  Living in Bellevue, the parent of grown and successfully launched adult son and three daughters, retired with time to devote to WWTA’s goals and objectives.

Jim Virgin – Board Director, Vice President

Jim grew up one mountain pass North of Yosemite on a ranger station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. From a very young age he has always enjoyed the outdoors, learning to ski when he was two. At the age of eleven he joined the Boy Scouts and the very first merit badge he earned was the canoeing merit badge. In college he took every outdoor adventure class available, learning how to rock climb, cave explore and build snow caves. But most of all he learned to kayak and guide rafts. For the next five years, Jim spent his summers as a raft guide on the rivers of Oregon and kayaking on his days off. Somewhere along the line he earned a degree in Occupational therapy and spent the next decade working the field of adaptive mobility designing and fitting seating systems for wheelchair. During this he continued his joy of the outdoors and began sharing his skills through Scouting and older youth groups such as Venturing. His service in scouting has earned him the Silver Beaver, Venturing Leadership Award and Silver Antelope awards. He has assisted the national BSA office by leading a team to develop program manuals. In 1992, he became President of the Oregon Kayak Canoe Club leading them through incorporation and joining the ACA as a Paddle America Club. In 1996 he became chair of the ACA’s Northwest Division. He served on the board of directors of the American Canoe Association for a decade starting in 2005. The last five of those years as the ACA’s Vice President. Jim is an ACA level 4 whitewater kayak instructor, a level 3 coastal kayak instructor and a level 1 SUP instructor. He is a graduate from NOLS Leave No Trace Master Educator Course that had an emphasis on coastal kayaking. He became chair of ACA’s rafting committee and led a team that developed the rafting curriculum. Most recently he has joined the Washington State Marine Advisory Board and serves as the State’s Whitewater advocate. Jim lives in Vancouver Washington with is wife and two daughters and as a family love the outdoors of the Pacific Northwest.