It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of long-time Greenbelt Alliance board member John Chapman after a nearly year-long battle with cancer. John had served on the Greenbelt Alliance Board since 2003 and as President of the Board from 2009 until earlier this month.
“John’s love for the Bay Area was unwavering,” says Jeremy Madsen, Greenbelt Alliance Executive Director. “He inspired and motivated everyone at our organization to go the extra mile to protect the Bay Area’s amazing landscapes and make our cities and towns great places. John was an outstanding leader, a mentor, and most importantly, a friend. I will miss him profoundly. The Bay Area has lost a true champion.”
For over 25 years, John volunteered his time to protect the Bay Area’s open spaces and make cities and neighborhoods vibrant and sustainable—with a focus on his home county of Contra Costa. In the 1990s, he was a leader of the opposition to the sprawling Dougherty Valley development, not far from his Danville home. John was instrumental in conserving Cowell Ranch, near Brentwood, which will now be enjoyed for generations as the John Marsh State Park. John also successfully fought a toll freeway around the eastern side of Mt. Diablo.
Long before the local food movement was popular, John understood the importance of Bay Area farms and ranches. He worked closely with the City of Brentwood and local farmers to raise over $12 million that have been used to permanently protect family farms in eastern Contra Costa County. While serving on the boards of the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust and the Richmond Community Foundation, John coordinated a collaboration betwen the two, the Richmond Farm 2 Table CSA. This effort brings fresh fruits and vegetables directly from Contra Costa farmers to Richmond residents, with reduced-cost boxes for low-income families.
Over the years, John became a passionate advocate of smart growth and infill development, including the award-winning Contra Costa Centre Transit Village. While serving as Board Chairman of the East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF), he founded the Livable Communities Initiative, which worked to build environmentally, economically, and socially healthy urban communities through grant-making and consensus-building. Working with EBCF, John played an instrumental role in helping set the stage for the Uptown area of Oakland. John went on to help establish the Great Communities Collaborative (GCC), a partnership of Bay Area advocacy organizations and foundations that works with communities to create visions for smart growth with transit-oriented development. GCC is recognized as a model collaborative by smart growth experts around the nation who have worked to replicate it from Boston to Denver.
John has left an amazing legacy. He will truly be missed.
In the album below, Greenbelt Alliance would like to share some of our happiest memories with John over the past 11 years.
In lieu of flowers, the Chapman family suggests making a charitable donation in John’s honor to an organization of your choice.
Photo: Evan Lovett-Harris