Regional district receives largest individual land donation in Central Okanagan history

More than 324 hectares of land along the south slopes will be protected for generations thanks to a significant individual land donation.

More than 324 hectares of land along the south slopes will be protected for generations thanks to the Central Okanagan’s largest individual land donation.

The land will become the Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park.

With several members of the Johns family in attendance, regional board chair Robert Hobson made the announcement at Cedar Creek Community Centre Wednesday.

“As a result of the generosity of (the Johns), we’ve spent about 20 years working toward the acquisition with the Central Okanagan Land Trust, the regional district and other individuals in the community,” said Hobson.

He noted regional staff has yet to discover a larger individual land donation in provincial history.

About 20 years ago, Johns siblings Nancy and Alf contacted the COLT with the idea of bequeathing their properties, which total more than 300 hectares. Since 1993, the regional district has been working with COLT on agreements for the gifting and leasing of the properties that would eventually see the environmentally significant lands protected.

Nancy passed away in 2002, but it wasn’t until Alf passed in the spring of 2011 that the remaining two parcels bequeathed to the COLT were made available to the regional district.

The market value of the donated land is estimated at nearly $8 million.

The newly established parkland will remain closed until a park management plan is prepared and trails are formally developed.

“Part of that management plan will be how we reforest the area,” said Hobson.

He also noted the nature conservancy will be an area of passive recreation.

“We’ll build a significant trail network through it. There will probably be some education long-term as well—that’s something we do a lot in our parks. This is a good place to learn about the impacts of fire and succession, so we’ll continue to provide that.”

President of the COLT Barry Jones said the creation of the new regional park is a good example of how government and non-governmental organizations can work together to conserve natural heritage and protect biodiversity.

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson also announced that two parcels between the new regional park and Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park will be designated as crown land for public recreational use only. The move will limit the kind of development and activity that can take place, ensuring protection of a significant wildlife and ecosystem corridor along the south slopes.

“We thought it was an important step to take,” said Thomson.

“It creates that continuous corridor between Okanagan Mountain Park and the Johns’ donation.

“It helps protect those land values in all of that area for the citizens of Kelowna. It adds to the legacy that the Johns have provided to the community.”

Thomson said he has a personal connection to the donated lands. He used to hike through the property on Boxing Days and have a drink with Alf up at his cabin.

“Both he and Nancy were great people. To be able to do this in their memory I thought was very important.”

The crown land designation adds over 300 hectares to the conservation area.