A devoted champion of Sylvan Lake who campaigned against complacency in lake protection has died.
Kent Williamson, 54, is believed to have died from heart-related issues on March 20 in Costa Rica, where the avid surfer was on vacation.
A past-president of the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society, Williamson was dedicated to protecting the lake and doing what he could to inform the public about the fragility of the natural asset. Whether wading up to his hips in the lake collecting water samples or painstakingly searching out online information on water quality issues, Williamson was determined to ensure the lake was not taken for granted, said Kim Schmitt, a friend and current president of the society.
An information technology specialist by trade, Williamson learned how to set up and manage websites so he could develop www.SaveSylvanLake.ca, a site designed to let the public know about threats to the lake.
“With the research and constant questioning, he spent literally thousands of hours, I think, trying to bring light to the value of what we had and the need to be vigilant about how we protect it,” said Schmitt on Friday.
Williamson’s efforts helped show people that the lake quality can be squandered if principles to protect it are not put in place and abided by.
“His legacy was bringing the whole issue to the public’s attention so that we didn’t kind of stay comatose on it, and in time we wake up and we have a smelly, blue-green lake that you can never, ever get back. Once it turns, the science says there’s no way back.”
When Lacombe County held a public meeting last fall to discuss its Sylvan Lake Area Structure Plan, Williamson appeared armed with a bottle of green scum, a little piece of theatre designed to highlight the fragility of the lake and the dangers of allowing too much development.
Williamson also didn’t shy from pursuing his passion for protecting the lake through legal channels. When Lacombe County wanted to expand the Sunbreaker Cove boat launch, he launched an appeal. It was ultimately unsuccessful because the appeal board decided Williamson, a Calgary resident who spent part of the year at his Blissful Beach home, was not directly affected by the project.
Schmitt said the family has asked that any donations on Williamson’s behalf be made to the society to continue its work. Information will be posted soon on the website at www.slwss.org. The society can also be reached at Box 9012, Sylvan Lake, T4S 1S6.
A memorial is to take place in Calgary on April 14. The society also plans to honour Williamson in a ceremony at the lake later this spring.
Williamson leaves behind a long-time partner, Paulette Poirier, and three grown children.