Steamboat Springs Heritage Award winners
2000: John Fetcher
2002: Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club
2004: Kevin Bennett
2006: Jayne Hill
2008: Gloria Gossard
2012: Bob and Audrey Enever
Steamboat Springs Ask John Kerst what it feels like to receive one of this city's most prestigious awards, and he'll immediately try and change the subject.
"I've had various recognitions, but behind all of it is a group," Kerst said Thursday in his office at Yampa Valley Bank. "You don't do things to be recognized. You do things to be part of the community. You work to do your part."
If the philanthropist and longtime Steamboat resident had his way, the award he just received also would be dedicated to all the people who worked with him to do such things as build a new hospital and secure acres and acres of public river access.
"It's hard to recognize an individual for what a group does," Kerst said.
The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night voted for Kerst to receive Steamboat's coveted Heritage Award.
Every two years, the award is given to an individual who has donated years of time and service to the community.
With more than 25 years of community service and leadership here in arenas ranging from health care to land conservation, Kerst's resume certainly fits the bill.
Kerst said he was humbled by the award.
He was nominated by the Yampa River System Legacy Committee, an organization that has been awarded millions of dollars in grant funding throughout the years to preserve open space and agriculture land here in the Yampa Valley.
Committee members described Kerst as the "glue" that held the group together.
"The community is better off in so many ways because of John," the committee wrote in a letter nominating Kerst for the award. "He has dedicated his time, knowledge, and expertise in order to improve the lives and experience for the people who live and work in and around Steamboat Springs, by doing the important behind the scenes work that comes with little to no glamour or glory, but is so vital to making the organization successful."
Kerst said he hopes the Heritage Award brings attention to the years of work done by the entire Legacy Committee.
He said the organization worked hard to bring expanded river access at places like the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area and also helped to expand the Elk Head Reservoir near Hayden.
The Legacy Committee represents Routt and Moffat counties, the cities of Steamboat Springs and Craig and the town of Hayden.
It also represents 22 state and federal agencies and local nonprofit organizations.
Kerst served on the committee for 15 years.
Growing up in Northeast Colorado, Kerst watched as his parents got involved in their community.
"When I moved up here, I tried to have a positive impact and did what I could to help the community," Kerst said. "It's why I'm still here. It's why it's home to me. I have worked with quite a group over the years."
Kerst has served on numerous boards and organizations in the Yampa Valley ranging from the Community Agriculture Alliance and Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp to Yampa Valley Medical Center and the former Lowell Whiteman Primary School.
"People like me are at a time in life where we're not going to change the world, but you never know what young person might change the world," Kerst said. "You do what you can with the youth to make sure they have that opportunity."
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10