A Prairie Oasis: How dirty coal made the cleanest park in Alberta
Prairie Oasis – owned and operated by the Special Areas Board – is a recreational area sitting astride a man-made lake about half an hour south of Hanna, Alberta. It has a fantastic beach, lots of space for day use, and the wildlife is plentiful.
The park is highly ranked by RVers, with a large number of powered sites. There are also plenty of spots for those who like to rough it in a tent. Boating nuts will enjoy the small, well-maintained marina.
This is probably the cleanest campground in Alberta, bar none. It’s very rare to see litter, the beach is practically cigarette butt and beer can free, and the washroom facilities are immaculate. A very pleasant change from what I’m used to encountering.
The “lake” at Prairie Oasis park is actually the cooling pond for Sheerness Generating Station (it operates on a closed loop system). Sheerness is a coal-fired thermal generating station that went into service in 1984. I had always been under the impression that coal is a dirty energy source. I’ve seen pictures of soot-stained buildings in Europe, smokestacks spewing black crud, etc., etc. When you’re raised by a hippie single mother who voted NDP, this is all you know. Everything I learned in public schools reinforced this knowledge. Everyone knows how dirty coal is, right? Right?
It was a real shock for me to see how clean this park was. The Alberta park that I expected to be the dirtiest and most polluted was anything but. When you do as much landscape photography as I have, you know what pollution and industrial blight look like. There’s none to be seen at this park that shares a coal plant’s cooling pond as a recreational space.
My shock was doubled when I learned that right across the highway from the Sheerness station sits a coal strip mine operated by the Westmoreland Coal Company. After all, we all know how dirty coal mining is too. We’ve seen it in how many movies?
The Sheerness Generating Station works with mining company Westmoreland Coal Company to ensure that the mined land is returned to levels of productivity as good as or better than what existed prior to mining.
Sheerness has received its registration with the International Organization for Standardization’s Model for environmental management systems under ISO 14001.
Being ISO registered demonstrates that the station has met a demanding international standard and has processes in place to effectively manage the environmental aspects of generating electricity.
Planned coal-fired power plants - More than 2,400 coal-fired power stations are under construction or being planned around the world, a 2015 study has revealed.