Lake Windermere, at the heart of the Upper Columbia Valley, provides many benefits to the surrounding communities. At the same time, it experiences a high level of use both on the lake and along its shores. The Lake Windermere Ambassadors is a non-profit group composed of concerned citizens committed to protecting the lake in perpetuity. Our vision is an ecologically healthy Lake Windermere with balanced management approaches that support recreation and traditional uses, high fish and wildlife values, and economic prosperity in the region. In order to achieve that vision, we need the widest possible segment of the population aware of the lake as a community asset– and working to protect it. The challenge we face is how to increase involvement and awareness.
The Lake Windermere Ambassadors aimed to address this challenge by holding an annual event to showcase our work and increase awareness about the importance of maintaining a healthy Lake Windermere. Through the event at James Chabot Provincial Park, we aimed to instill a sense of pride and responsibility for Lake Windermere and its watershed in visitors and locals. BC Parks supported the event through the Park Enhancement Fund.
During the event on August 11th 2013, we counted 250 people actively participating in the activities. We estimate that at least 300 people participated, far exceeding our hopes for the event. Twenty one volunteers contributed 50 hours of service to delivering the event.
Part of our “edutainment” during this event was a watershed sculpture contest. Eight teams filled out “watershed questionnaires” which prompted participants to further increase their knowledge of watersheds. Karolina, our Summer Student stationed at the contest on August 11th said she was asked, “What is a watershed?” at least fifteen times. This means that at least 15 people learned what a watershed is for the first time. More in-depth learning occurred at this activity, as well. Karolina reported many incidents of: “Oh I didn’t know that!” when she shared information about wetland and watershed functions.
We drew participants from a variety of stakeholder groups. Approximately 26% of the registered participants were local, 56% were from the Calgary area, and 18% were from other areas of BC or Alberta. Thus, we reached our goal of increasing awareness of Lake Windermere Ambassadors activities and knowledge about the Lake Windermere watershed among residents, second homeowners, and visitors to our area.
(Photos credit Karen Reisle and Kirsten Harma)