M.D. seizes an Opportunity to Survey its heritage

The M.D. of Opportunity contributes to the Alberta Heritage Survey

St. Leon Le Grande church
St. Leon Le Grande church in the Hamlet of Calling Lake

The Municipal District of Opportunity is a large rural municipality located north of the Athabasca River. I don’t get the opportunity chance to travel to north-eastern Alberta very often, so I was excited to visit the Hamlet of Calling Lake in May. I found that yes, there are indeed trees and lakes outside of our Rocky Mountains.

I was in Calling Lake to facilitate a daylong workshop for local volunteers preparing to survey the M.D.’s potential historic resources. The Municipal Heritage Partnership Program granted funds to help the M.D. add a few hundred sites to the Alberta Heritage Survey Program. Like so many municipalities before it, Opportunity will use the information to learn more about some of the potential historic resources within its boundaries.

What’s a survey? Essentially, a community identifies properties over a certain age or ones that appear to have historical or architectural interest. A volunteer from the survey team visits each site, taking photos and noting the design and construction of any buildings or structures. Information collected during the site visit is supplemented through historical or architectural research. The results is recorded on a Site Form (one form per site) and recorded in the Alberta Heritage Survey Program’s database. (You can learn a great deal about the survey program by reading Identifying Historic Places, Part 1–Conducting a Municipal Heritage Survey.)

The survey of the M.D. of Opportunity is quite interesting because it will focus on buildings, structures and trails from the settlement period around the Hamlets of Wabasca, Calling Lake, Red Earth Creek and Sandy Lake. This area has a rich aboriginal and Metis heritage and was an important fur trapping and trading area. It is also the first municipal survey to focus on sites related to aboriginal people.

During the training, we actually went to one of these sites: the St. Leon Le Grande Roman Catholic Church. It was built by the Oblates. Unfortunately the roof collapsed last winter. The survey will allow for it to be recorded for posterity—and perhaps provide the information necessary to designate it as a Municipal Historic Resource and to rehabilitate it in the near future.

Stay tuned, I will keep you updated on this project as it develops.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

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