You can learn a lot while walking with 88-year-old Joop Burgerjon through Sargeant Bay Provincial Park. He’s been walking the trails in the area, many of which he helped create, since the park’s inception in 1989, and he seems to know every tree and wildflower, rocky outcrop and wetland.
His love for the natural beauty and diversity of life in the parkland is contagious, and he’s fostered appreciation in many others over the years.
In 1978 Burgerjon helped form the Sargeant Bay Society, which fundraised and fought for 12 years to save what is now 142 hectares of protected parkland in Halfmoon Bay.
It is Burgerjon’s efforts to preserve the area and educate others about it that have won him a Volunteer Legacy Award from BC Parks this month. The award is meant to honour “cumulative accomplishments” of volunteers that have made a “significant impact on parks and protected areas.”
Burgerjon moved to a cabin near what is now Sargeant Bay Provincial Park in 1974. When he saw a developer start tearing up a piece of shoreline in anticipation of a marina development in the area, he sprang into action.
After a community meeting was called and little support was found for the development, Burgerjon worked to form a society and grow membership in anticipation of taking the fight to the province to protect the area.
After many years of lobbying government, fundraising and putting in walking trails, the waterfront portion of the property was declared a park in 1990.
Burgerjon and other members of the society then developed a plan to rehabilitate the wetland area disturbed by the former developer. In 1991 the plan was approved and carried out with assistance from the society and that included the installation of a fish ladder.
In 1996 the park was expanded to include Triangle Lake at the society’s and Burgerjon’s urging.
“Joop helped to create the original vision for the society, promoting the protection of the bay from development, and was instrumental in leading the initial task of restoring the wetland and its associated wildlife habitats,” a press release from BC Parks said this week.
“His vision and quiet leadership role in protecting and restoring the natural values and recreational opportunities of the park have continued to grow and expand through decades of involvement in the park.”
Burgerjon still walks the trails almost daily in the park and is involved in the society as a webmaster, and he has held positions of secretary and treasurer in the past.
“I feel I need to slow down a little bit as I get older,” he said, adding the society needs more members to help carry forward their mandate of protecting the natural habitat of Sargeant Bay, its watershed and neighbouring wetlands.
“We need members to keep up our work and to keep vigilant about the park, because we are the watchdog for this park,” he said.
Burgerjon feels honoured that he has been given a Volunteer Legacy Award for his involvement with Sargeant Bay Provincial Park, but he points to other society members as the reason for past accomplishments.
“I feel charmed. I appreciate that people appreciate what we have done, because, of course, I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of the society.”
Find out more about the park and the society at www.sargbay.ca.