Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park

From the early days of the Central Okanagan Land Trust, brother and sister Alf and Nancy Johns had announced that they wished to maintain the ecological diversity of their 800-acre property on Kelowna’s south slopes in its natural state in perpetuity. To do that, they decided to donate the land to COLT to ensure it was maintained for their community, as land for wildlife, after they were gone.

Nancy passed away in 2002 and Alf continued to live on the land until his death in 2011, donating 160 acres of the land to the trust in 2002 and 80 acres in each of 2003 and 2004. The Central Okanagan Regional District agreed to lease the property as future parkland, with the understanding that their leasehold rights, and news of the gift, would be deferred until Alf’s death.

Part of that agreement states that the Johns’ wishes for the property’s habitat to be protected for wildlife, with limited public access, will be respected, with COLT continuing as property-owner to ensure that is carried out.

In 2003, the Okanagan Mountain Park Wildfire severely scorched portions of the 800 acres, so some of the timber was harvested, with the proceeds going towards replanting and fencing the property. In addition, Tree Canada donated $5,000 towards trees to help in the replanting, as much of the natural regeneration was curtailed by the heat of the fire, which burned the seeds.

Biologist Nicole Thomas prepared a baseline inventory of the property’s natural features in October, 2004 and members of COLT conduct annual inspections to ensure they are protected. In the spring of 2013, an inventory conducted one day by the birding group of the Central Okanagan Naturalist Club on the property resulted in 55 bird species being identified.

In 2013, during the dedication of the property as parkland, the provincial government announced that 800 acres of Crown land situated both within and to the south of the new park, had been protected with a reserve restricting industrial activities and other tenures on the property and protecting it for recreation and wildlife. This will provide a continuous corridor of wild land across the south slopes above Kelowna to Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park.