Locals in running for environmental award
List of nominees includes BLESS and Closer to Home
Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 06:00 am
Two groups with St. Albert roots have been nominated for one of Alberta’s most prestigious environmental awards.
The Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS) and the Closer to Home Initiative have been nominated for the 2014 Emerald Awards.
The awards are considered one of the most prestigious honours for environmental excellence available in Alberta.
The two groups are amongst the 96 people and organizations currently under consideration for awards this year, said Emmy Stuebing, executive director of the Alberta Emerald Foundation (which runs the Emerald Awards).
“It’s actually very hard to receive an Emerald Award,” she noted.
Candidates undergo a rigorous evaluation process by an expert panel and must show a great level of dedication, innovation and impact when it comes to bettering the environment.
“The people who receive Emerald Awards truly are great environmental leaders.”
The foundation gives out anywhere from zero to three awards in 10 different categories each year, Stuebing said.
BLESS was nominated for its Summer Nature Centre program, which teaches hundreds of local kids about nature each year in St. Albert. It’s one of 23 groups in the community group/non-profit category.
The Emerald Foundation actually asked BLESS to nominate themselves for this award, said longtime BLESS member Miles Constable.
The summer nature centre has been running continuously for about the last nine years, Constable said.
“We have a 10-week program and it covers everything from bugs to birds to bees,” he said.
Constable said some 176 different people visited the centre last summer, contributing to a total of 1,500 visits.
“A lot of the kids come back basically every week.”
The summer nature program is set to return this summer, Constable said.
This sort of program is important to make sure that residents pay attention to the environment, he added.
“If we want to have future citizens who are environmentally aware, we pretty much have to start from the beginning with children.”
BLESS has previously received an Emerald Award for its work to get Big Lake identified as an Important Bird Area.
Closer to Home
Also self-nominated was the Closer to Home Initiative – a $3.25 million project by the Alberta Water and Wastewater Operators Association to improve water system safety.
Closer to Home is one of seven groups nominated in the challenge award category, Stuebing explained – an open category that focuses on work around a specific issue. This year’s theme is water.
Closer to Home was a two-year project that wrapped up this February, said Brian Brost, a Morinville resident who currently works for the City of St. Albert and was a member of the project’s executive group.
This initiative helped about 268 rural Alberta communities – including St. Albert – complete drinking water safety plans, share water conservation tips and get additional training on proper waterworks operation. It also created many guides and videos with which to train other waterworks personnel.
Safe waterworks are essential for public health, Brost said.
“If we don’t maintain that, people could get sick,” he said.