Major wetlands advocate dies

(Then-Watsonville Mayor Felipe Hernandez (right) presents Jim Van Houten with a proclamation in 2016. Van Houten died on May 10. File photo by Erik Chalhoub/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — Jim Van Houten, a major name in the preservation of area wetlands and parks, died May 10 following a long battle with prostate cancer.

A fifth generation resident of Santa Cruz County, Van Houten, born July 22, 1930, was one of the people that helped found Watsonville Wetlands Watch in 1991. Over the years, Van Houten advocated for wetland issues, helped restore degraded habitats and supported the Watch's programs that help educate elementary, middle and high school students in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, as well as the public in general, according to Wetlands Watch.

In honor of his work in preserving the environment, the City of Watsonville proclaimed Feb. 2, 2016 as Jim Van Houten Day, coinciding with World Wetlands Day.

A Santa Cruz High graduate, Van Houten went on to graduate from San Jose State College and later, after his service in the Navy, he went on to get a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UC Berkeley.

Van Houten was also active at the La Selva Beach Park and Recreation District, the Santa Cruz County Local Agency Formation Commission and the Elkhorn Slough Foundation.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Ellie, and other family members.

A memorial service will be held June 2 at 2 p.m. at the La Selva Beach Clubhouse.


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