AMHERST – Jason Blanch would like to see Blair Lake become a happening place again.
The Amherst town councilor has asked town staff to examine the possibility of using a piece of town-owned land on the lake as a base for some recreational programming such as canoeing, kayaking and paddle-boarding.
“I grew up as one of George Maston’s paddling students and I have fond memories of spending hours learning to canoe out there and it was some of my best memories as a teen,” Blanch said Tuesday. “I’d love to see that happen again. Back then, canoes were big, but today we could have stand-up paddleboards and kayaks.”
Blanch said several months ago there was a memo that came before council about a piece of town-owned land along the lake that’s located in the Municipality of Cumberland just behind Loch Lomond Campground at the E.D. Fullerton Municipal Building.
The town councilor likes to believe that someday there will be a trail from Amherst to the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre. He would like to see the town and the Municipality of Cumberland work in partnership to create a multi-use recreational trail to the lake as well.
“It’s something people who are biking, walking or jogging could use to get to the lake,” Blanch said. “We could put a dock in there. People could fish or go boating.”
Blair Lake, unfortunately, has seen better days. While people do use boats on the lake, it has been a long time since anyone has swum in it due to the presence of algae.
In 2005, the Blair Lake water quality steering committee was struck to look for ways to improve the lake’s water quality. The provincial Environment Department completed water quality tests in the lake in February of that year found the lake to be eutrophic, or excessively high in minerals and nutrients resulting in oxygen depletion.
A 1986 study of the lake by the former Cumberland district planning commission indicated high concentrations of nutrients and chlorophyll as well as low transparency, while in 2004 a water quality monitoring program was put in place in response to concerns from local residents about water colour and an odour that sometimes emanated from the body of water.
Steve Ferguson, the development officer for the Municipality of Cumberland said there have been no additional water quality tests since 2005. He suggests Blanch, or the town, can reach out to the group that has been working to find solutions to water quality issues at Mattatall Lake near Wentworth.
Blanch is not sure if anything can be done to return the lake to a recreational use, but he said it’s worth looking into.
“This is just preliminary to see if there is anything that can be done,” he said. “In the end, we may not be able to do much, but it’s worth looking into.”
Marilyn Thompson, who chaired the county’s water quality steering committee 13 years ago, would love to see the lake brought back to life as a recreational spot. Her home on the Blair Lake Road is next to the lake and she has seen some boating and fishing there, but would love to see it used to its potential.
“I love living next to the lake. My late husband and I have many memories of the lake,” she said. “It was very busy at one time.”
Thompson said people still use the lake for boating and she often sees people fishing there.
Several years ago, when she ran for council, the lake and road – as well as a sidewalk from the hospital to the town – were her main platforms. She’s still hopeful something can be done regarding all three issues, adding the Blair Lake Road is in deplorable condition.
She doubts the lake would be a great place for swimming, though. The water is not toxic, she added, but anything that would stir up algae blooms on the bottom would not be productive.