M.D. of Willow Creek council updated management of parks by Elks

By Rob Vogt
The Stavely Elks’ management of three municipal parks within the Municipal District of Willow Creek has been a resounding success.
That was one of the messages delivered to the M.D. council at its March 8 meeting.
Tim Nelson, of the Elks, appeared as a delegation to provide an update.
The Elks took over Willow Creek Park, Clear Lake Park, and Pine Coulee Park in February of 2021.
The Elks have a parks committee with between 25 and 30 members, who partnered with an organization in Nanton to look after the parks.
“We just want to let you know what we’ve been doing,” Nelson said.
He started with Willow Creek Park northwest of Claresholm.
The Elks have held work bees. The first one was two years ago, attracting 65 volunteers the first day and 45 volunteers the second day, to clean up the park.
“It was awesome,” Nelson said.
They cleared dead branches and trees, and burned them, with a fire permit in place.
They also planted trees, including around the swimming hole. In fact, last year they planted 100 trees.
At one point there was wind damage to the office, but the M.D. stepped in and took care of it, and Nelson expressed the Elks’ gratitude for that.
They did some work in the office as well, putting in more cabinets, a new sink and taps. Power has also been run to the quonset.
Nelson turned his attention to Clear Lake, east of Stavely, that also has a hall.
He noted the facility had a musty smell, so they took out the sink only to discover mold. They pulled out all the wainscotting and found more mold.
Consequently, they had a work bee to clean that up and paint.
There is also a bathroom on the east side of the hall, on the west side of the lake, that would get dirty. The Elks filled in the walls of that bathroom with PVC or plastic siding.
The park has thirty campsites on the west side of the lake, so the Elks put in caragana bushes.
Nelson pointed out Brian Nelson has been out there hundreds of times to water. He is an Elk and M.D. councillor.
Finally, Tim Nelson talked about Pine Coulee west of Stavely.
They have had some work bees out there, including one to clean up trees.
They had trouble with the power. There are 29 sites and 26 are powered, and seemed the breakers went off regularly.
The power company replaced the transformer with a bigger one. Wiring was also replaced, and Nelson said the Elks will replace and fix all the plugs where people plug in their trailers.
The Elks have undertaken a number of other initiatives as well.
One is fire and ice. They started selling fire wood and ice and delivering it. They also give out free freezies to the children.
“We have a line up of people who want to do this,” Nelson said, adding everyone has fun doing it.
Payment is now accepted by credit card, debit card, cash or e-transfer, where it used to be that only cash was accepted.
The community has been utilizing the parks too. Stavely Elementary School has used the Pine Coulee group area for their Terry Fox Run, and a K-9 search and rescue used Pine Coulee for some training.
A conservation educator used Clear Lake and took people ice fishing, while there was a free movie in the park at Willow Creek Park that drew more than 150 people.
Some promotional items have been created to promote the parks such as cups, sold in Nanton, with chocolates and a coupon for free camping.
Another initiative is a number of seasonal campsites where people pay a fee for year-round camping.
There are five sites at Willow Creek at $2,500 each; three at Pine Coulee at $3,500 each; and as many as they can pre-sell at Clear Lake at $2,000 each.
Winter cleaning activities utilizing volunteers, include cleaning the toilets at Clear Lake and Pine Coulee, and cleaning up garbage.
Nelson then described the long-term goals.
They would like to make one part of the Pine Coulee group area bigger, but will need permission from Alberta Environment and Parks.
The Elks would like to create walking trails at Willow Creek Park, utilizing 315 acres that are part of the park. This area has not been grazed in 15 to 20 years so the grass is high and thick, perfect for the Elks to mow walking trails through to an old bridge. Again permission from Alberta Environment and Parks is needed.
They would also like to add more sites to Willow Creek Park. The Elks discovered from long-time campers and residents, that a lot of sites the Elks are talking about putting in were there before but were washed in a flood. They are also looking at an off-leash dog park.
At Clear Lake, they would like new kitchen cabinets and a hot water tank for doing dishes at the hall, and a rack to put tables and chairs on to store and move around.
Nelson concluded by describing the benefits of the project.
He said it has made the Elks and Royal Purple an even stronger lodge; attracted more lodge members; encouraged great new ideas; and made the community safer, because people are getting to know each other.
“It’s been good for the lodge,” Nelson said. “I hope it’s been good for you guys.”
“You guys are doing a fabulous job,” said Reeve Maryanne Sandberg. “We’re so grateful you took them (the parks) over.”