|| Home | Stewardship | Education | Documents | Events | Photos ||
The Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS) is in its 22nd year as a registered non-profit organization. The society's major objective is the conservation of the Big Lake wetlands, through advocacy, public education, stewardship of the Big Lake Natural Area and data collection programs. BLESS is a regional organization, with membership coming mainly from each of the four municipalities bordering the Big Lake wetlands.
The organization was founded in 1991 by St. Albert physician, Dr. Fin Fairfield, who was joined by 23 other founding members. BLESS was registered as a non-profit organization in 1992 with a constitution that provides for a managing board of directors. Annual General Meetings have been held yearly since 1991 for purposes of electing directors to the board.
In order to carry out its objectives BLESS began fund-raising with "Octoberfest" dinner auctions. For a time this function became an annual social event in St. Albert and enabled BLESS, along with other partners, to develop capital structures on the shores of Big Lake. These include a shelter building along the Red Willow Park Trail, a major viewing platform at the point where the Sturgeon River flows from Big Lake, and an improved trail to the platform from the Red Willow Park Trail.
Almost from the start, BLESS has been involved in the controversial "West Bypass" issue which stemmed from a long established plan to build a six-lane highway along the western edge of St. Albert, close to Big Lake. This highway will intrude into lands available for good recreational and educational access to the wetlands and Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park. In 2001, St. Albert had decided to opt for an alternative route farther away from Big Lake. However, the City of St. Albert has reverted to the original alignment and is currently building its road through the natural area.
BLESS nominated Big Lake for consideration within Alberta's Special Places 2000 program and was a member of the local committee that recommended acceptance in the program. Alberta subsequently designated the lake as a Conservation Natural Area and appointed BLESS as the official steward of the Big Lake Natural Area (BLNA).
BLESS also nominated Big Lake for the international Important Birds Area program. The lake now has status as a "globally significant IBA site".
In recognition of Alberta's centennial and in honour of the late Lieutenant Governor, the Alberta government designated the Big Lake Natural Area as Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park in 2005. BLESS remains the official steward of this, the province's newest provincial park.
More About BLESS