John Woodworth was a visionary who loved the Okanagan Valley, where he grew up and grew old.
He always told me that he figured it was because he was a pilot who flew small planes, as well as an architect, that he could see things as a whole from overhead and had a ‘broader view’ of the landscape.
That larger view translated into his vision for conserving wildlands by protecting them in provincial parks like Okanagan Mountain and Cathedral Lakes—two gems in our crown of parks in this province.
John died Sept. 8 so I won’t be receiving any more calls from him asking if I might be interested in his ideas for parkland along Kelowna’s waterfront (restoration of Sutherland Park and its formerly sandy beach, south where the Tolko mill sits still today); or for an elevated access to the new Bennett Bridge across Okanagan Lake, to ease congestion without taking up any more of City Park or other land in Kelowna’s congested downtown area.
It was he and Art Hughes-Games who got together and encouraged the city and Rotary to join with a number of other organizations, from Ducks Unlimited to the Central Okanagan Land Trust and Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club, to restore what had become a lakeshore waste dump at the outflow of Brandt Creek.
Today, more than $1 million later, Rotary Marsh is still not quite the ‘wild spot’ those two envisioned, but at least it’s a marsh again, purifying the water from what John used to call the little “son of a ditch,” or Brandt Creek, as it discharges Glenmore and north end runoff and wastewater into Okanagan Lake.
He had a delightful, droll sense of humour, but like the ideas he constantly came up with, it was original and insightful. He did not suffer fools gladly and he was quick to identify them. John was not shy about saying his piece, and he had no shortage of informed opinions on a wide variety of topics.
He also had a long memory of Kelowna and its early days, growing up on Manhattan Point in the 1920s—one that pre-dated that of most of us.
For a reporter, such a contact was invaluable because he remembered the roots of this city and this valley better than most of its residents knew them and such recollections are invaluable sources when a fact needs to be checked or a story corroborated.
John served for 25 years on the board of the Nature Trust of B.C., after Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau appointed him a founding director, and in recent years he was awarded the Order of Canada.
He was justifiably proud of his achievements and the recognition fought for space in his home office, but he always had a new passion; a new project that he was working on. I never saw him doing nothing.
When we lose someone like this, it’s a reminder that we need young blood to step into those shoes and take on with passion the conservation of our special wild spaces; the restoration of others that were special once; and to champion causes.
Don’t think you can stand by and watch the world go by without losing something of it for lack of action.
Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.