Updated: Feb 16, 2022
Rivers Without Borders Canada was saddened to hear about the passing of Wayne Merry this week. Wayne was a tireless advocate for the environment, particularly in the region surrounding his home in Atlin, B.C., and a long-time supporter and friend to Rivers Without Borders Canada (RWBC) as a steering committee member.
With a degree in conservation and education, Wayne had a professional background with the U.S. National Park Service in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska and worked as a teacher in Iqaluit. A highly accomplished climber, he was founder of the Yosemite Mountain Guide Service and is perhaps best known for the 1958 first ascent of El Capitan's The Nose in Yosemite National Park. The face, which was previously considered unclimbable, would become a mecca for rock climbers the world over.
"For those of us fortunate to spend time with him, he was also a really good guy," says RWBC director Will Patric. "He is a big part of Atlin and will be missed."
Wayne moved to Atlin in the early 1970s with his wife, Cindy, and raised two sons in the small village in northwest B.C. He was deeply involved in the development of the Atlin-Taku Land Use Plan, finalized in 2011. As a member of the Atlin community, always with an eye toward the needs of the environment and the interests of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, Wayne's measured, cheerful and thoughtful presence was a real plus in the sometimes-tense planning process. And when a hydro project threatened B.C.'s largest natural lake, Wayne's Protect Atlin Lake Society led the successful charge against the proposal.
In 2017, he wrote to The Province to share his concerns about the abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine, which sits 100 km southwest of Wayne's home and has been polluting the Taku watershed for more than 60 years.
"It's opposed by the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. It has wasted countless taxpayer dollars and has been the cause of lawsuits and decades of controversy. It has stirred very strong concern in our Alaskan neighbours," he wrote. "It's far beyond time that the government looked at the history of the Tulsequah Chief mine and closed it down for good."
Rivers Without Borders Canada extends our deepest condolences to Wayne's family and all who knew him. His contributions to environmental sustainability and outdoor lifestyle will be dearly missed, but his legacy lives on through his accomplishments. Wayne's passing is a big loss for sure, but his memory will continue to inspire our efforts to keep the Taku wild and thriving.