Dan McDermott’s Legacy as Freshwater Hero

The following blog was written by Kristina Jackson, Sierra Club Canada Foundation’s National Operations Director, and long time friend and colleague of Dan McDermott.The Freshwater Hero 2017 award is a canoe-shaped piece of wood, lovely, solid and smooth. The canoe shape indicates the close connection between humans and water. And in this case it symbolizes the respect of other enviros for Sierra Club’s Dan McDermott.In May, Dan was posthumously awarded the Freshwater Hero 2017. At Dan’s memorial event in Toronto the award was presented with a powerful statement, “Dan dedicated his life and career to protecting the environment. He tirelessly and bravely fought for our air and water… taking on even the toughest of opponents, including the nuclear and coal industries.”Dan was not only a Freshwater Hero but a Hiking Hero to those who knew him well. He hiked some of the great walks around the world. He could tell you the very best time of year to hike the Cinque Terre in Italy but his very favorite hikes were in the Bruce Trail. I was touched when he gave me his copy of the complete Bruce Trails maps. He didn’t part with the maps because he retired from hiking – he only slowed down in his last months – but more because he already knew the trails so well and he wanted to share with a Canadian newcomer (lucky me!) Dan would be excited by the peer-to-peer Hiking Hero fundraising program SCCF just started this year as it combines both his passion for grassroots engagement and his love for hiking and the outdoors.Dan traveled afar but was especially devoted to the greenspaces close to his home, dedicating years to protecting the Ontario Greenbelt. He often said this was inspired by weekend jaunts with his partner in hiking and love, Helen Rykkens. As they drove out of town to hike each year more and more of the agriculture and natural areas were being converted to ticky-tacky houses with no trees. This so frustrated him that he felt compelled to do something about it. Dan spearheaded Sierra Club’s work on the Greenbelt for over a decade, along with other organizations this resulted in great success at the Land Use Planning Review completed in 2016.Amongst many powerful memorial statements to Dan’s legacy, the Freshwater Hero award also says, “Dan will continue to inspire all those who knew him to follow their passion, maintain the course, and fight for clean water and air.” Click here to read about Dan’s recent memorial, held on Saturday May 27th.