Environment File

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Lake lovers can now get closer than ever to birds at Big Lake thanks to a new set of public binoculars.

Members of the Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS) bolted a new view-scope to the observation platform by Big Lake Saturday morning. The scope, which was funded in part by the City of St. Albert, gives users a clear view of the opposite side of the lake.

BLESS members came up with the idea for the binoculars in 2009, said member Dave Burkhart, and got a $3,900 grant from the city’s environmental advisory committee to buy them. After some fiddling with bolts and screws this weekend, the club had the binoculars in place on the platform.

The binoculars are similar to the coin-operated ones found in national parks, said Trevor Zahara, BLESS vice-president, except these ones are free. “If you forget to bring your own [binoculars], you’ll be able to get an even better look than people who brought their own.”

Built by the U.K.’s Heritage Destination Consulting, the binoculars have self-focusing lenses that magnify everything 50 times, strong enough to give users a clear view of nesting geese (and goose eggs) on an island 150 meters away, the Gazette found, and equivalent to using a 1,000-millimetre telephoto lens.

This installation gives people universal access to the view, Zahara said, whether they have binoculars or not. “You can see clear across Big Lake to the far side.”

It should also be useful to visiting students. “It opens up nature to the public.”

Archie Landals, the provincial parks director who oversees the Big Lake region, said he’d like to see more view-scopes placed throughout Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park. “Anything we can do to get people more encouraged to get out there from a nature association and wildlife point-of-view is great stuff.”

Mayor Nolan Crouse and MLA Ken Allred will officially unveil the scope on May 16 shortly after the Spruce Up the Sturgeon event, Burkhart said. Refreshments will be available. For details, call 780-418-8863.

Thirsty gardeners will want to head to city hall this week to get new rain barrels for their lawns.

St. Albert’s fifth annual rain barrel sale began this Monday. Some 450 barrels are now available to residents on a first-come, first-served basis, said Meghan Myers, the city’s environmental co-ordinator, and people are already lining up for them. “Last year, we sold out in three weeks.” Each barrel holds 45 gallons (170 litres) of water.

The city has promoted rain barrels for years as a cheap way to reduce water use. City residents now use about 280 litres of water per person per day.

The city will have sold 2,650 barrels by the end of this year, Myers said, which collectively can save enough water to fill 2,839 bathtubs.

This year’s model features a built-in hose attachment that makes it easier to link barrels together, Myers said. “It took me about half a day to put mine in last year,” she said, so this feature should make them even more popular.

There are still plenty of homes that don’t have barrels, Myers said, when asked to explain the program’s popularity, and many homeowners buy more than one. Having one per downspout would help you collect plenty of water for your lawn and garden, she said.

The barrels cost $50 and are available for order at the customer service desk at St. Albert Place. (Limit four per person.) The barrels will be available for pickup at a later date. For specifics, call 780-459-1735.

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St. Albert Gazette

The St. Albert Gazette has been the source for news and community information in St. Albert and area since 1961. Today the twice-weekly full-colour tabloid delivers award-winning journalism in print, online and on mobile.