Joseph Jacobus Burgerjon – or Joop as he was known to family and friends – had a successful career as an electrical engineer at Triumf, the nuclear physics laboratory at UBC. However, his adult daughter Paula Burgerjon thinks “if he had been able to choose what he wanted to do, rather than what was practical to make a living and what he was good at, he would have definitely become a biologist.”
When Joop retired in the ‘70s, he and his wife moved from Vancouver to the water’s edge in Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast. Due to his proximity to the water, Joop was the first resident in the area to notice permitting signs from a developer who was planning a development that threatened the wetlands. Being a passionate and enthusiastic man, Joop was fired up by this potential infringement on the wetlands, and he formed the non-profit Sargeant Bay Society in 1978 to oppose it.
Money was raised, the marina and development application were opposed, and the wetlands were saved. But that’s not all. The organization went on to obtain provincial park status in 1990, and it expanded to include Triangle Lake in 1996. Today, the Sargeant Bay Society works with BC Parks to create and maintain trails, manage an invasive plant control program, and create platforms for bird watching on the 142-hectare site.
Joop passed away last year at the age of 91, but his legacy and his commitment to the environment continues. There’s a new trail at the Sargeant Bay Provincial Park – Joop’s Triangle Lake trail – and Joop’s will contained a generous bequest to Georgia Strait Alliance, as well as to four other environmental groups.