Goldsworthy, Patrick Donovan (1919-2013)

  • By Elise Fogel
  • Posted 3/30/2011
  • Essay 9790
See Additional Media

Patrick Goldsworthy's initial entry into hiking was through the original Sierra Club Chapter in his hometown of Berkeley, California, where he realized it took citizens' active participation to protect the beautiful places they loved. After moving to Seattle, he co-founded the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Sierra Club and the North Cascades Conservation Council (N3C). He worked for decades to protect the North Cascades, playing an instrumental role in establishing the North Cascades National Park, preventing High Ross Dam, and creating designated wilderness areas within the park boundaries. Goldsworthy earned a respected position amongst his colleagues for his humble persistence and leadership, his consensus making skills, his ability to inspire loyalty amongst others, and his unwavering devotion to the ideals of conservationism.

A City Boy Grows Up

Patrick Donovan Goldsworthy was born on April 20, 1919, in Ballymore, County Wexford, Ireland, to Elmer Colin Goldsworthy and Constance Agnes Bright Donovan. His father, who grew up in California, had been living in Canada when World War I broke out, and joined Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He was injured in Britain and was nursed back to health by Constance, an Irishwoman working as a volunteer nurse. The two married shortly thereafter and Patrick was born.

Around 1920, Goldsworthy and his parents moved to Berkeley, California, where his father attended the University of California, and eventually became a math professor. Patrick was home-schooled by his mother until the family moved to North Berkeley in time for him to start third grade. During Patrick’s young childhood the Goldsworthys were not outdoorsy, but he remembered spending time with his father on campus, which at the time had large open spaces, and exploring parks, including the East Bay Regional Park, with his friend Phil Brown.

He was profoundly influenced by a book by Ernest Thompson Seton called Two Little Savages, which describes two city boys finding out about nature and Indians and learning wilderness skills such as making traps and tracking animals. He was mesmerized by how foreign these activities were compared to his life in the city. As he remembered in a 1983 oral history, "I used to wonder, how do you get out of town? I mean which way do you go? All my associations were the streetcar, and where you walked, and school. And I couldn't visualize, if I had a car, which direction I would take and how to get out" (Pacific Northwest Conservationists: Patrick D. Goldsworthy). His curiosity would soon be satisfied.

Meeting the Sierra Club

When Patrick was a teenager, the Goldsworthy family began spending summers camping on a portion of another family's lot in Tahoe Meadows. Patrick took weekend backpacking trips in the nearby mountains, and worked during the week as a carpenter's assistant, which was how he caught the attention of Sierra Club photographer Cedric Wright, who invited Goldsworthy to carry his equipment for a backpacking trip. Goldsworthy immensely enjoyed hiking these majestic mountains. This gig continued for several summers, with Goldsworthy slowly taking on more and more responsibility for trip chores and planning.

Goldsworthy graduated from UC Berkeley and joined the Army Medical Corps in 1941. The following year he married Jane Frances, whom he had met in high school. She worked in administration at Berkeley while he was in the army. After the war, he went back to school, studying biochemistry, and on weekends the young couple would take off on backpacking trips with the Sierra Club. Patrick also helped with four-to-six-week-long trips, assisting Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower (1912-2000), who became a lifelong role model and mentor. Jane also assisted on these trips, earning the nickname "Miss Management." Patrick started learning about the importance of activism for the beautiful places he enjoyed.

"Then along with the high trip campfires, this is where I began to get into the conservation aspect of the out-of-doors. Up to this time, I just naturally enjoyed the out-of-doors, it was a nice place to be ... . But then at these campfires, you know, I would hear that unless somebody does something, it's not always going to be this way. At the campfires I would listen to Charlotte Mauk and Dave Brower talk about Echo Park and how there was going to be a dam. They're going to flood this area; write to your congressman. Well, I'd never heard of that concept, you know, that people can do things" (Pacific Northwest Conservationists: Patrick D. Goldsworthy).

He was learning lessons that would stick with him for the rest of his life. Patrick took on more and more responsibility until, eventually, he was leading Sierra Club trips himself.


In 1952, Goldsworthy finished his Ph.D. and took a job researching protein biochemistry at the University of Washington Medical School. He said that when choosing between jobs in Texas and Seattle, he chose Seattle, partly because of its proximity to beautiful natural places.

In 1953 the Goldsworthys joined The Mountaineers to learn more about local hiking, and they started meeting local climbing enthusiasts and conservationists, including Polly (1920-2016) and John (1911-2008) Dyer. Polly was heading The Mountaineers' conservation efforts at the time, but they wanted to focus more on conservation issues in the Northwest, so the Dyers and Goldsworthys decided to found a Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Sierra Club, to encompass Washington, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta, and Alaska. This was a controversial proposition at the time. It would be the first Sierra Club chapter outside of California and many Mountaineers worried that the Sierra Club would draw people from "local clubs, [that] present founding leaders might leave and the chapter would collapse ... and that too much time and attention is being given to conservation and not enough to other considerations such as safety-search-and-rescue, night trips, etc" (Pacific Northwest Conservationists: Patrick D. Goldsworthy).

Nonetheless, the Goldsworthys held the initial Sierra Club Northwest meeting on December 5, 1953, at their home near Gasworks Park. They served a buffet dinner on furniture made from sheets of plywood balanced on sawhorses. Fifty signatures were collected from members throughout the included states, and the chapter was officially founded in 1954. It was decided at that first meeting that the focus of the chapter would be conservation, not outings, a revolutionary idea at the time. Goldsworthy was elected chairman, a position he held until 1956, and the first hearing he attended was in support of Three Sisters Wilderness in Oregon. From there, the group moved on to address the issue of Glacier Peak Wilderness.

Exploring the Northwest with Conservation

Before coming to Seattle, Goldsworthy had mostly heard rave reviews of the Olympic National Park, but a friend from the area recommended that he check out Cascade Pass instead. On his way up to the pass he noticed how large swathes of the forest had been logged, and was inspired to protect what was left of this beautiful area. This was to be the focus of his conservation efforts for the rest of his life. Reflecting back, he said, "I began to realize that you can't get involved in everything though there are a lot of things that need involvement. I developed the philosophy that the way to do this is to specialize in something, specialize. So I decided fairly early when I came to Seattle and I went to Cascade Pass -- the Cascades just fascinated me" ("Pacific Northwest Conservationists: Patrick D. Goldsworthy ...").  

Goldsworthy also had an appreciation for the Olympics. In 1956 he played a key role in the salvage-logging scandal in the Olympic National Park. In the mid 1950s, more than 100 million board-feet of lumber were taken from the park unbeknownst to most in the local environmental community. When it first came to the attention of Paul Shepard, seasonal ranger in the park, he alerted The Mountaineers, who sent Goldsworthy and Phil Zalesky (1924-2013) into the park with a camera to document the evidence. The tree stumps, bulldozer tracks through roadless areas, and other images they captured forced the park service to respond and stop the logging, which was suspected as some sort of payoff to the local loggers. This would be one of Goldsworthy's first encounters with zealous loggers and their opposition to the conservation ideals espoused by national-park advocates. 

Around this time, Goldsworthy and Zalesky led school groups up into the mountains, recruiting young people to appreciate the natural world and be inspired to protect it. Outreach came naturally to Goldsworthy, who was passionate about conservation and whose gentle confidence allowed him to find allies everywhere he went. He realized early on the importance of consensus-making and collaborating with non-traditional allies. "If you can get a non-conservationist to speak up, somebody in industry, somebody whom the congressmen or senators wouldn't expect to be a supporter of a conservation cause, that's a big big plus" ("Pacific Northwest Conservationists: Patrick D. Goldsworthy ...").

In 1957, Goldsworthy and others founded the North Cascades Conservation Council (N3C) to focus specifically on issues facing the North Cascades. They modeled the organization after the Olympic Park Associates to be project- and crisis-oriented. The Mountaineers sponsored the N3C, and their first meeting was in Portland, where the forest service's regional office was located. It eventually became headquartered in Seattle and employed a paid representative to attend all the necessary meetings and hearings and compete with the businesses that were sending paid employees. However, the N3C was and still is primarily a volunteer-based organization. The N3C chose members who were knowledgeable about the Cascades. They were careful to check the backgrounds of potential members for fear they would lose control to the logging interests. The N3C was a grassroots effort, with meetings and mailings held at the homes of members. They took aim at the regional forest service's office, which naively thought it could easily dismiss a small group of conservationists.  

In 1960 the United States Forest Service signed an order to establish the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area. The N3C was disappointed because it was about half the size it  wanted and had borders drawn around valleys to keep heavily forested areas free for logging. After a year of trying to expand the boundaries of the wilderness area, the N3C decided to go after a national park in 1961, a controversial idea that had been in circulation for decades. The N3C conducted a study of the North Cascades, meant to guide future management of the land. In 1963 the organization released a report that would act as a draft for the eventual park bill, in which they proposed that the park service could do a better job than the forest service of protecting the scenic value of the land by preventing logging and mining.  

Goldsworthy participated in the study and in disseminating its message by educating the public and involving the media in the issue, going on television and radio programs and talking to the newspaper reporters. In 1958 the Sierra Club released a film featuring original footage of remote, beautiful locations in the Cascades, titled Wilderness Alps of Stehekin. Goldsworthy was one of the volunteers who often appeared with the film and spoke to school groups, community organizations, and anyone else who would listen. The N3C received waves of new volunteers, who helped expand the group's reach. Publicity stunts helped them get attention. At one of the hearings, several members of the N3C walked in with a towering stack of signatures in support of the North Cascades National Park. Other organizations were impressed, wanting to emulate their style.  

As a result of his outreach, Goldsworthy formed close relationships with many public officials, including Senator Henry M. Jackson (1912-1983). "I, as a representative of the N3C, had a big rolled-up map that I carried everywhere I went. I went to Washington D.C. and went to the offices of all of our Washington delegation one after another and explained what we wanted. They were very thankful" (2011 interview).

In 1966, in recognition of his work bringing together people with divergent views, Goldworthy was awarded the Sierra Club's first annual William E. Colby Award. As Goldsworthy said, "you don't know where you'll find your friends" ("Pacific Northwest Conservationists: Patrick D. Goldsworthy ...").  

Hard Work Pays Off 

Meanwhile, Goldsworthy was still researching and teaching at the University of Washington. He acknowledged that his commitment to the North Cascades, and the extreme time demands of attending hearings and meetings, took time away from his career and prevented him from achieving all of his professional goals. "But I don't regret what I've done. I feel I've made a contribution, something positive, and I still am in an academic environment, which I like," he said in 1983 ("Pacific Northwest Conservationists: Patrick D. Goldsworthy ...").  

His time sacrifices were deeply appreciated by colleagues. In the words of friend and fellow N3C member Phil Zalesky: 

"Many people had involvement in the creation of the North Cascades National Park, some major and some minor, but among those one individual deserves special recognition. Patrick Goldsworthy, backed by his wife Jane, untiringly provided the vitality keeping the endeavor organized, cohesive, and providing the driving force to it all. Mapping. Writing. Conferences with politicians ... . Lining up people to testify. Working on the draft of the bill. Dashing back and forth to the printer. On and on and on. All of this was done to the detriment of his professional career as a biochemist ... . Without him I do not believe the park would be there today" (Manning). 

After years of grassroots effort, including public hearings, lobbying, and testifying at hearings, victory arrived for Goldsworthy and the N3C in October 1968 when the North Cascades National Park was created. Despite some major compromises, Goldsworthy and other conservationists were thrilled that their hard work had paid off. Goldsworthy was invited to Washington D.C., to shake hands with President Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973). Later, he received President Johnson's signing pen as a gift. 

In 1967 Goldsworthy had attained some national prominence for his work with the North Cascades, and he was elected to the board of the National Sierra Club. He was disturbed by the internal politics at the national level and the controversy surrounding his longtime friend and mentor David Brower. Brower was removed from the Sierra Club board in 1969 for his extreme environmental views and methods. Goldsworthy resigned in 1970 to focus on the local issues that retained more importance for him -- conserving the North Cascades. Goldsworthy was more interested in experiencing the outdoors and protecting it than in engaging in power struggles.  

Highs and Lows 

In 1969 Goldsworthy was appointed the sole citizen member of the North Cascades National Park Master Plan Team. The Northwest Regional Office of the National Park Service was established in Seattle after the creation of the park. Even after the formation of the park, there were lots of issues to address, and a variety of volunteers wanted to help. Momentum was not lost. Of immediate concern were several tramways proposed for Arctic Creek, Price Lake, and Ruby Mountain. None were ever built. 

Next, the N3C turned its attention to defeating Seattle City Light's proposal to raise Ross Dam. The Seattle City Council voted in 1969 to raise the existing dam, which had been excluded from the national park on account of Seattle City Light's interest in Ross Lake development. Goldsworthy recalled hiking with friends in Big Beaver Valley and seeing with his own eyes how much land would be submerged if the dam were raised. Goldsworthy devoted himself to defeating the dam. At a Sierra Club Chapter meeting in Vancouver B.C., he was able to join forces with a Canadian group, Run Out the Skagit Spoilers (ROSS), founded in 1969 to fight High Ross Dam. Carloads of Canadians began appearing at hearings in Seattle, protesting the dam and what would be the resulting flooding. This international alliance of grassroots groups eventually contributed to the 1984 agreement between the City of Seattle and the Province of British Columbia -- the dam would not be raised, and British Columbia would sell the necessary power to Seattle.  

After the Ross Dam issue was resolved, Goldsworthy was appointed by Seattle Mayor Charles Royer (b. 1939) to the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission (SEEC), a U.S.-Canada commission created to protect the land of the Skagit watershed that was created out of the treaty between Seattle and British Columbia. Goldsworthy was partially responsible for convincing the Canadian forest service to create a park immediately adjacent to the border, the result of his valuable contacts with Canadian officials. At the time, according to Goldsworthy, the thinking in Canada on the concept of wilderness was not as advanced as in the United States. 

Making Time 

Throughout his life, despite a busy schedule, Goldsworthy always made time for hiking on weekends and vacations. Starting in 1968, he was part of an informal group of hiking buddies that included Harvey Manning (1925-2006), Dick Brooks, and Ted Beck. They called themselves the Elderly Birdwatcher Hiking and Griping Society. Between 1968 and 2006, when Manning died, the group took 39 hikes in the Northwest, with Goldsworthy participating in at least 23 of them.  

In 1974, Jane Goldsworthy died from multiple sclerosis. She had been an ardent conservationist herself, chairing the membership of the Sierra Club chapter and keeping records for the N3C, as well as being active outdoors until contracting multiple sclerosis. As Patrick was still reeling from her death, their only child, Kathy, died unexpectedly in 1976. Like her parents she had loved the outdoors and her ashes were buried on an island off the Pacific Coast, the first place her parents took her camping when she was 3 years old.  

Throughout these challenging times, Goldsworthy kept up his involvement in the local conservation community, attending meetings and working on issues. At a Mountaineers meeting, he met Christine Nelson White, a recent divorcee and avid cross-country skier. They began taking trips together, both skiing and hiking, and bonded over their love of the outdoors. They were married on August 19, 1978, and Goldsworthy gained five stepchildren: Catherine, Teresa, Patrick, Melissa, and Christopher.  

Conservation Never Ends 

After the issue of Ross Dam was resolved, Goldsworthy and the N3C were able to focus on obtaining wilderness areas within the park. On July 3, 1984, President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) signed the Washington Wilderness Act, adding 1,031,758 acres to the wilderness system. On November 16, 1988, President Reagan signed the Washington Parks Wilderness Act, declaring 93 percent of North Cascades National Park Complex a wilderness, as well as 95 percent of Olympic National Park, and 97 percent of Mount Rainier National Park. Goldsworthy's commitment to wilderness gained momentum as he aged. Despite these gains, he was never satisfied.

Goldsworthy retired from the University of Washington in 1993. He continued to enjoy hiking and skiing until he had to have both knees replaced. His knees had carried him over a lot of terrain throughout the decades. As he said in 2009, "I wasn't into just mileage, I wanted to know the country ... . We went every place you could think of, to get to know the Cascades" (Mapes).

In his last years, Goldsworthy contented himself with walking within Seattle and acting as chairman of the N3C. He remained wholeheartedly devoted to the organization and its tenets, although he let Executive Director Jim Davis take care of most of the day-to-day duties. Goldsworthy also helped create the American Alps project, organized to keep expanding protection for the North Cascades. He never lost his zeal for conserving the North Cascades; indeed, when asked about his life, he often answered with information about the park. Without Goldsworthy's dedication, it's safe to say we wouldn't have the North Cascades National Park we have today. 

Patrick Goldsworthy died in Seattle on October 5, 2013. He was 94 years old.


Ted Beck and Pat Goldsworthy, "The Elderly Birdwatchers Hiking and Griping Society," The Wild Cascades, Winter 2006-2007; Harvey Manning, Wilderness Alps: Conservation and Conflict in Washington's North Cascades (Bellingham: Northwest Wild Books, 2007); "Brief History of the North Cascades National Park," American Alps Legacy Project website accessed March 10, 2011 (; "Hearings before the Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs United States Senate, Ninetieth Congress, First Session on S. 1321," April 24 and 25, 1967, Box 10, North Cascades Conservation Council Records, 1732-11, Special Collections, University of Washington (UW) Libraries, Seattle, Washington; "Hearing before the Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Mount Vernon WA," May 27, 1967, Box 10, North Cascades Conservation Council Records, 1732-11, Special Collections, UW  Libraries; Elise Fogel interview with Patrick Goldsworthy, University Book Store, Seattle, March 11, 2011; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Seattle City Council approves High Ross Dam construction on October 30, 1969" (by David Wilma), "Pauline (Polly) Dyer" (by Paula Becker), "Zalesky, Phil (b. 1924) and Laura (b. 1924)" (by Louise Lindgren), "North Cascades Conservation Council" (by Joel Connelly), and "Manning, Harvey (1925-2006): Author, Editor, Agitator, Wilderness Advocate" (by John Caldbick), (accessed March 14, 2011); North Cascades Conservation Council website, (accessed March 9, 2011); Jim Kjeldsen, The Mountaineers: A History (Seattle: The Mountaineers Books, 1998); "Pacific Northwest Conservationists: Patrick D. Goldsworthy: Protecting the North Cascades, 1954-1983," an oral history conducted in 1983, Sierra Club History Series, 1986, Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle; David Louter, "Contested Terrain: An Administrative History of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex," National Park Service website accessed March 29, 2011 (; Glen Martin, "Sierra Club Pioneer Severs Ties: Brower Says Group Has Lost 'Sense of Urgency,'" May 29, 2000, San Francisco Chronicle (; Lynda Mapes, "'Parents' of North Cascades Park Want It to Grow," The Seattle Times, May 20, 2009 (; "Run Out Skagit Spoilers Committee Fonds," British Columbia Archival Information Network website accessed March 14, 2011 (;rad).
Note: This essay was updated on October 31, 2013, corrected on April 15, 2014, and updated on November 25, 2016.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You