A MacEwan University biology student will be at Big Lake next week to kick off the region’s annual summer nature program.
The Big Lake Environment Support Society’s Summer Nature Centre opens June 27 at Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park. The free summer program offers a variety of nature-themed activities which teach visitors more about nature and Big Lake.
Last year’s program was exceptionally busy due to all the people wanting to get out of the house during the pandemic, said BLESS spokesperson Miles Constable. He predicted a similar turnout this year due to the new trails at Big Lake.
Running the nature centre this summer is St. Albert resident and MacEwan University biology student Loreena Nieuwenhout, who brings a lifelong interest in nature and outdoor education programs to her new role.
“I’m a big dork!” she said with a laugh, when asked why she applied for the job.
Nieuwenhout said she loves spotting different birds and plants outdoors and learning from nature guides at provincial parks and lakes, and wants to share with others that special feeling you get when you know the land around you.
“When you see those kinds of things, it’s this magical moment when you realize you’re not the only living creature out here. There’s all kinds of life that’s around you.”
The nature centre has traditionally operated out of the old RCMP cabin by the St. Albert Trail bridge. During the pandemic, it moved to Big Lake to work with provincial health restrictions.
While the centre could move back to the cabin at this point, Nieuwenhout said she chose to keep it at Big Lake to better immerse people in the region’s natural wonders.
“It’s better to learn about Big Lake at Big Lake.”
Nieuwenhout said guests at the nature centre will take part in a variety of nature-themed activities around the park’s boardwalk and trails organized into a morning and evening session. She asked guests to pre-register for a session so she can tailor the activities to her audience. Each week will have a different theme, and some weeks will include visits from other Sturgeon watershed nature groups, such as the Wagner Natural Area Society.
The centre is open Monday to Friday from June 27 to Aug. 26. Visit the BLESS Nature Centre Facebook page to register.