An unsurpassed naturalist and true Westcave icon, John Ahrns served as Westcave's sole Preserve director and lead educator from Westcave’s beginnings in 1976 until his retirement in 2010. John began his work at the Preserve by hauling more than 100 large garbage bags of trash out of the canyon. The trash had been brought and left there by decades of trespassers who were literally “loving Westcave to death."
Years later, when he had accomplished an astonishing restoration and protection of the Preserve, John set out to build an environmental education program by traveling to area schools and encouraging teachers to bring their students to Westcave. Our weekday offerings now attract more than 6,000 children each year. In the early part of this decade, John developed a field-based program for middle school students, and supervised the construction of our award-winning Warren Skaaren Environmental Learning Center, staff headquarters and staff residence.
This beloved guardian of Westcave passed away on January 20th, 2014. You might have felt the earth shift as he departed. Internationally renowned birding expert Victor Emanuel said John was a true hero, someone who taught himself to be one of the most knowledgeable land stewards and naturalists in Texas.
As an educator, he shared generously with everyone who visited the Preserve. He also visited with many neighbors and friends, on their land, to teach about what was there and how to care for it - - the "Johnny Appleseed" of Hill Country conservation. John was first and foremost a wonderful husband and father, and he lived his life with great joy. The staff and board of Westcave, along with many others, are grateful for the blessing and good fortune of having known John Ahrns.