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The Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS) is in its 30th 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.
From the start, BLESS was involved in the controversial "West Bypass Road" issue which stemmed from a long established plan to build a highway along the western edge of St. Albert, close to Big Lake. This road is currently being twinned and BLESS continues to advocate for mitigation to avoid, as much as possible, negative impacts on the Big Lake Natural Area and Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park.
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 steward of the park under the provincial government's volunteer steward program.
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