By Andrea Sands
Edmonton Journal, January 1, 2011
EDMONTON – Environmentalist Elke Blodgett has clashed repeatedly with St. Albert city council.
The longtime St. Albert resident fought city plans to use a pesticide to kill an invasive, non-native fish in Riel Pond. She campaigned for the city to move transmission lines along Big Lake out of the flight path of migratory birds. She pushed the city to clean up old sewage lagoons and continues to watch over St. Albert’s Sturgeon River watershed.
Now, the City of St. Albert is recognizing its often vocal opponent by naming a piece of land after her.
“I’m pleased about it, because this particular area has been for decades a rather smelly sewage lagoon and it’s finally been cleared up enough to be turned into a kind of wildlife restoration area. By saying, ‘OK, you can put my name on it,’ I sort of say I approve, right?” Blodgett said Friday.
The strip of land that juts north into Riel Pond will be named Elke’s Peninsula, recognizing Blodgett’s work to preserve and restore St. Albert’s natural areas, the City of St. Albert announced in a December news release.
“It’s just where I hang out,” said Blodgett, who has lived in St. Albert since 1966. “On my way, when I go out to the lake to watch the sunset, I’m usually checking on the place … It turned into a very, very pleasant refuge for human beings and animals, with oodles and oodles of deer and moose, by the way.”
Blodgett has been a vocal protector of the Sturgeon River and Riel Pond, which is used by the city to hold stormwater. About five years ago, part of Riel Pond was reclaimed as a wetland with a more gradual slope and vegetation.
Elke’s Peninsula is just west of Ray Gibbon Drive, a north-south road that crosses Riel Pond and connects to Anthony Henday Drive in northwest Edmonton. Blodgett organized a petition against that road before it opened in 2007. She had hoped to stop the west bypass, arguing the roadwork could lead to ground and surface water contamination and would affect wildlife, wetlands, vegetation, and fish habitat.
Blodgett has also worked to protect migratory birds, and is still trying to convince politicians to move a transmission line near Big Lake that has killed numerous waterfowl. Big Lake is adjacent to Riel Pond and is an internationally recognized stopover for waterfowl.
In the spring, the City of St. Albert plans to place a commemorative item at Elke’s Peninsula to recognize the naming honour, the city said in the news release. The peninsula is a favourite nesting area for wetland birds, the release noted.
Blodgett said the isolated spot attracts geese, swans and American avocet, a large black and white wader that breeds in Alberta. She has shooed away snowmobilers, dog-walkers and anyone else who disturbs the birds.
“There’s no benches in there. There will be no walking trails or anything to encourage people to come in.”
Blodgett acknowledges her environmental work does not always make her popular.
“That’s putting it mildly,” she said with a laugh.
The mother of three grown children and grandmother of seven has many adversaries, but also many supporters. Blodgett said she has been able to produce results thanks to help from many specialists who provide her with information – scientists, water experts, lawyers, other environmentalists and environmental groups – as well help from other concerned residents.
Blodgett’s work over the years has contributed to the City of St. Albert’s efforts to better protect the environment, Mayor Nolan Crouse said in the city’s news release.
“Elke is a great example of someone giving back to the community,” Crouse said.
“It is fitting for Elke to be recognized and I can think of no better way of doing so than to name this area within the constructed wetlands after her.”