The Waskahegan Trail was conceived as a centennial project by Fred Dorward, backed by the Oil Capital Kiwanis, and widely supported by the civic and provincial groups, including Lieutenant Governor Grant MacEwan.
There was no shortage of enthusiasm for the project. But we all know that the Trail wouldn’t have gone anywhere if it was not for Stan Skirrow.
This year, we aimed to have Stan and his accomplishments recognized by nominating him for a 2017 Recreation Volunteer Recognition Award. The award, which is given by Alberta Culture and Tourism to only four Albertans each year, is exclusive and prestigious.
To pass the first gate, we obtained the endorsement of the Director of River Valley and Horticultural Facilities at the City of Edmonton. That was easily done. At the second gate we submitted two essays detailing Stan’s accomplishments and why we thought he should receive the award.
Stan didn’t make the top four, but he did receive acknowledgement from Alberta Culture and Tourism.
We think of Stan every time we linger at Stan’s Bench overlooking one of the most picturesque valleys on the trail. Here’s an opportunity to get acquainted with Stan’s work and thank him for all he has done.
This is one of the essays that was part of the nomination:
Stan Skirrow did more than anybody else to develop and advance the Waskahegan Trail, a unique 300 km resource built mostly on private land made available through the generosity of landowners. He obtained landowner permissions when everyone else was afraid to ask, and set the foundation for these partnerships-in-faith that continue to this day.
Stan wrote the trail guidebook in his friendly, informal manner, that goes beyond giving directions and pointing out landmarks. He included a great deal of material about the settler families, historical events, and the region’s geological history. His descriptions enable hikers on the trail to get maximum appreciation of the land they walk on.
Stan organized and participated in trail building and trail maintenance. He also organized and led free Sunday guided hikes, enabling people of all ages to spend the day with us walking in the country and observing nature first-hand in areas that they wouldn’t have access to any other way.
Long-time members of the Waskahegan Trail Association recall the very warm welcome he gave to each new member and his genuine interest in each and every one of them.
Whereas the initial volunteers, notably Fred Dorward and the Oil Capital Kiwanis, were the spark, Stan Skirrow was the engine that drove the Waskahegan Trail for over 30 years. Through his direct efforts and into the present, the trail is visited by residents and visitors to Edmonton, Leduc, Wetaskiwin, Camrose, Fort Saskatchewan, and points in between.
It takes a lot of volunteer effort to keep the trail in good shape and available for the public’s enjoyment, while also maintaining the trust and cooperation of landowners. From the moment Stan retired as a school-teacher, he made the Waskahegan Trail his full-time hobby. Stan deserves this award because without his persistence and dedication, the Waskahegan Trail would not be thriving as it does today.