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Eastern Slopes stewards reach milestone anniversary

Friends of the Eastern Slopes Association, which 30 years ago got started by taking on Bighorn Campground, continues to grow
The Friends of the Eastern Slopes Association held its annual general meeting and banquet on April 13 in Olds with a record attendance of almost 500 people, said Saige Jackson, the association’s director. Submitted photo

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY – A non-profit organization of volunteer stewards who are passionate about not only outdoor recreation and fostering equine opportunities but also preserving environmental amenities for future generations, continues to grow as it reached its milestone 30th anniversary.

Originally incorporated in 1994 as a not-for-profit society, the Friends of the Eastern Slopes Association (FOESA) saddled up and began their journey when the group embarked on its first project at the Bighorn Campground located at the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch following negotiations with Parks Canada to assume responsibility of the property.

From there, the posse of passionate outdoors people and equine enthusiasts ramped up their efforts and over the three decades since have expanded their portfolio to include other properties such as but not limited to: Elk Creek Campground, Elk Creek Fish Pond, James Wilson, Cartier Creek, Deer Creek, as well as the Red Deer River North and South campgrounds.

On April 13, the association hosted its 30th anniversary banquet in Olds, which featured a performance by LowTide, in conjunction with its annual general meeting.

“We had nearly 500 people in attendance, which made it a record-breaking year,” Saige Jackson, the group’s director, told the Albertan by email in response to follow-up questions.

The day started early in the afternoon with the matter of conducting the official business of the annual meeting at the Olds Regional Exhibition building, she said, adding the evening portion of the program got underway afterward.

“We presented seven founding executives with a gift of gratitude and also presented five framed Ya Ha Tinda Ranch prints to individuals and businesses that have provided us with continued support the past few years,” she said, adding everyone then got to enjoy a roast beef dinner provided by RC Eats Catering from Olds.  

Tyler Rosehill and Patrick Cassidy from Olds Auction Mart were also on the program to auction off more than 15 items, including a 12-foot by 14-foot canvas wall tent as well as an engraved .243 Tikka Rifle, she said.

With the day’s formalities and fundraising efforts concluded, the fun got started with LowTide entertaining the crowd for the remainder of the evening, she said.

“Overall the banquet was a huge success,” she said.

“It was our first year hosting it at the Olds Cow Palace and they were so accommodating,” she said, expressing gratitude to the venue’s operators.

While the banquet itself set an attendance record, the past year generally speaking also set some new benchmarks, she said.

“This year overall was a record-breaking year for us,” she said, extending appreciation on behalf of the association to all of the supporters who contributed towards a substantial fundraising total of more than $50,000.

“This is our only major fundraiser for the association, aside from our annual horse rally held in August,” she said.

As a result of the annual general meeting, the association welcomed onto its board five new directors, bringing the total up to 21 members.

“We are eager to see what the new directors bring to the table,” she added.

Responding to a question about how the association is faring following 30 years, she said, “exceptionally well. This past year we nearly sold 3,000 memberships, making it our highest-selling year for memberships.”

The association has assumed responsibility as stewards of 17 campgrounds and more than 700 campsites, she said.

The group’s primary purpose, she said, is multi-faceted and includes: providing input into the recreational use of Alberta’s Eastern Slopes; encouraging, fostering and developing among members a recognition of the importance of recreation and environment within the Eastern Slopes; as well as encouraging and fostering recreation and horse use.

Asked whether the association had further plans on the docket for 2024 to either expand to include new locations or upgrade existing sites, she cited a number of projects.

Among them are to complete work on the Bighorn flood mitigation project as well as upgrades to the Red Deer River North and South campgrounds, which are located west of Sundre on the way to Ya Ha Tinda near the former Mountain Aire Lodge.

The group also has plans to upgrade and add new outhouses to the 7 Mile Campground, located northwest of Sundre off of the Forestry Trunk Road just west of the Clearwater River Airport.

Additionally, there will be some annual volunteer campground cleanups, with dates that can be found on their website.

“We always welcome extra help,” she said.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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