What do we do? An update and brief history of current FOFL projects…

Our projects have centered about a few key areas in the First Lake Watershed because those are the areas that we have had volunteers with an interest and time to work on these tasks.

1. The First Lake Greenway Trail system – Active transportation and recreational trail construction. In 26 years, we have raised over $1 million dollars to construct approximately 7 kilometers of fully accessible trails for the community in the public green space (owned by HRM) around First Lake. We are currently finishing the final piece of the greenway trail on the south side of the lake. To put the timeline in context, it has taken us 8 years of work (public consultation, meetings with HRM, fundraising, requests for proposals, planning, project management, etc.) to get to the construction phase of this last section of the trail. Currently phase one of this trail is complete with three more phases to complete in the near future depending on the funding we receive.

2. Maintenance – Once the trail is built we then have to maintain it. This is something we have been doing since the first section of trail was completed. We apply for funding from HRM every year. Some work is small and we can do it ourselves, however, bigger jobs we have to contract out. Big storms or heavy rains are always a concern. Signage is an important part of the trail system. We have several trail heads with larger maps and directional signs are scattered along the trail. Currently we need replacement signage on the original trail for signs that have been lost or damaged. Once the south side trail is completed we will need to create new signage for that area as well. There are also a lot of smaller jobs like refilling the doggie doo bag dispensers at the trail heads for example. Maintenance and in particular new and replacement signage is a project that needs a lead and members to work on it.

3. Water Stewardship – Over the years, our water stewardship program had ups and downs. This is only because we did not have anyone to lead it (no volunteers with an interest in this area). In recent years we have significantly improved in this area and we now have a very strong water stewardship committee. The first step is to test the water quality of the lake and gather information to plan next steps. What is the actual water quality of the lake? And, if there is a problem, what are the causes? Again, to put this into context, from the committee’s inception, it’s taken over two years of research, planning, training, fundraising and networking to get the point of “starting” to test the water quality. The plan is to test the water at several different locations four times a year.

4. Boat launch/Lake access – About 15 years ago, the boat launch access road (known as McIntyre Lane) was a big problem for FOFL as very often people would drive down this secluded lane and dump their unwanted trash and construction debris to avoid paying the dumping fees. This left us with a big mess to clean up until we came up with the solution to monitor access to the area with a gate and key system. Anyone can get a key to access the lake for $25 as long as they sign a form declaring that they will respect the watershed and take out everything they bring in (no garbage left behind). This includes a membership to the group. We have not had one incidence of dumping since we began the program all those years ago. We provide keys to law enforcement, fire and ambulance free of charge and we maintain the gate and keep track of key access. Bob Taylor, one of our senior (and founding) members supervises this program but I know that he would be very happy to retire if someone else was interested in running the program! This project needs a new lead/volunteer to step in and take over.

5. Administration – The administration side of any group is not the most exciting part but it is so important to the group running smoothly! This includes recording meeting minutes, emails, scheduling meetings, sending out notices, registration/organization for the AGM, registry of joint stocks, membership, etc. This was the volunteer job that I took on when I joined the group 18 years ago. Currently, I am the chair of this group…but I still do this job! This project needs a new lead/volunteer(s) to help.

6. Communications/Social Media/ – We have a website as well as a Facebook page, however, it is not being used to its full potential. We could be using these tools much more to promote the group, the work that we do as well as an educational tool. I’m hopeful that this will an area of growth going forward. This project needs volunteer(s) to help.

7. Education/Community Events – We have a long history of holding community clean ups and we have found a great way to do that and promote education at the same time is to get the high school students involved with the clean up effort. Along with a cleaner shoreline, hopefully this will help instil volunteerism to these kids at a young age. We also support other community groups who wish to hold community events around First Lake. Promoting education about the watershed to the broader community and neighbourhoods around the lake is another goal. We are currently developing an educational pamphlet to distribute to homeowners as well as at community events once events are permitted. This project needs volunteer(s) to help.

8. Finance – A special shout out to Barb Wilson who is our treasurer…and has been our treasurer for over a decade! Like many members, she works full time so we are very lucky to have her managing our budgets, tax returns, financial statements etc. in her free time! In fact, she was named one of the Sackville volunteers of the year for this year (nominated by our group). Unfortunately we could not celebrate this year as we normally would but we will definitely acknowledge her work when we are allowed!

9. Fundraising – None of our projects can go forward without funding to support it. We have been fortunate enough to receive funding from all levels of government over the years but this takes time and effort. It’s quite a skill to be able to fill in applications and proposals in such a way as to give us the best chance of being selected. It also involves developing relationships with the employees from the various government offices to help guide us through the process. In many cases funding is dependant on securing other sources of funding and it can be heartbreaking to go through the whole process only to be turned down in the end. We have been extremely fortunate to have one of our founding members lead this task for the past 26 years with great success. However, I’m sure he would be happy to have help and more people to research other sources of funding. This project needs volunteer(s) to help.