William Watson Lodge
Nestled in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, on the east side of Lower Lake, is the William Watson Lodge. Built and maintained by the Alberta Government, it was opened in September 1981 by Premier Peter Lougheed and his wife Jeanne, who is credited with the idea of creating a facility where Albertans with disabilities could stay and enjoy the outdoors at a reasonable cost. While disabled Albertans have priority, if space is available, Alberta Seniors are welcome.
The facility provides year-round accommodation in 22 fully accessible units, to which clients bring their own food and bedding. There are also 13 fully serviced RV sites and a comfort camping unit, open from the May long weekend to Thanksgiving, a playground, picnic sites and 20 kilometres of wheelchair-accessible trails. The main lodge and the first four cabins were opened in 1981 then more cabins were built in 1985 and opened for guests in 1986.
In the past, people had wanted to donate money directly to the facility but couldn't. Then in the early 90s, it became apparent that enhancements to the experience of visitors to the facility, were needed but were beyond the budget of the Alberta Government. And so, in 1992, the William Watson Lodge Society, a charitable, non-profit organization, was formed. It is dedicated to the efficient use of funding and donations, to make the facility and its surroundings safe and comfortable for its users, while providing an accessible and stimulating outdoor experience.
Why the name - William Watson Lodge?
The facility is an ongoing memorial to William (Bill) Watson, BA LLB, (1904 – 1965), who devoted his adult years to changing the social climate for the disabled. A birth injury cost him the use of both arms but encouraged by his mother, he learned to become independent, to swim and ski and challenge current attitudes about disabled persons. After graduating from the University of Alberta, then being told that he could not article because of his disability, he decided to travel, conduct research and lecture to change attitudes. Active in the Calgary Rehabilitation Society and although totally paralyzed for 16 years prior to his death, he never gave up his fight for better understanding and opportunities for the disabled.