Founding of the Sanctuary
In 1977, the Clifford E. Lee Foundation purchased 140 acres of marshland from Hector Cunningham for the purpose of creating a nature sanctuary. With the signing of a lease between the Clifford E. Lee Foundation and the Canadian Nature Federation in September 1978, the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary was established. In 1982, a 160 acre parcel was purchased from Mr. Len Clevette with funds again provided by the Clifford E. Lee Foundation and title of the entire 300 acre Sanctuary was transferred to the Canadian Nature Federation. A Volunteer Management Committee, made up of local residents and other sanctuary enthusiasts, was set up to oversee the management of the Sanctuary. In 1992, the Sanctuary was further expanded when the County of Parkland transferred the title for a 16 acre parcel adjacent to the southern boundary of SE 20 to the Canadian Nature Federation. Finally, as part of the Alberta Government’s Special Places Program, a 28 acre parcel east of SE 20 was purchased by the province and designated a Natural Area. The Volunteer Management Committee became a Volunteer Steward of the Natural Area parcel, bringing the total contiguous area in the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary to 348 acres.
History of the Sanctuary Lands
The south section of the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary was first owned by George H. Tomlinson, a tinsmith from Yorkshire, England. Tomlinson built his home on the quarter section, which had been a timber reserve prior to its purchase around 1916. The site of the Tomlinson home, which is not part of the Sanctuary, can still be seen along the east boundary, although the original house has been removed. Tomlinson built a second home in the early 1920’s along a rise just west of the Sanctuary’s main entrance. When he and his wife moved into Edmonton to open a tinsmithing business on 124 St., the property was sold to Charles Clausen. Clausen lived on the property with his son, Theodore, and mother-in-law, Mrs. Platt, until it was divided and sold to Hector and George Cunningham.
William Walter Clevette, a stonemason from England, purchased what is now the north section of the Sanctuary around 1915 but did not receive full title to the entire 160 acres because 40 acres were under water. Clevette cut logs to build his home and carried them to the home site on his shoulder because he did not own a horse. The wetland area, although unsuitable for farming, became a favorite picnic and berry picking spot. The 160 acre parcel remained in the Clevette family until its sale and incorporation into the Sanctuary in 1982.
The Clifford E. Lee Foundation
Clifford E. Lee was an Albertan with a deeply felt commitment to humanitarian and environmental concerns. Born on a farm in what is now Edmonton’s Hardisty district, he taught school for ten years before becoming a pharmacist and owning several pharmaceutical outlets in Edmonton. Always interested in politics, he was long active in the CCF, predecessor to the New Democratic Party, serving several terms as its Alberta president and writing regular columns for its newspaper, People’s Weekly.
Seeing the need for affordable housing following World War II, Lee applied his business acumen to starting up a home-building company, which thrived, eventually becoming NuWest Development Corporation, once one of the biggest housing development companies in North America. When the company he founded became a public corporation in the late 1960’s, he transferred the bulk of his personal fortune into a foundation. The Clifford E. Lee Foundation was thus established in 1969 to make funds available to worthwhile philanthropic endeavours in a variety of fields.
Although Clifford E. Lee died three years later, the Foundation, under a board of Directors, has continued to provide grants to a wide assortment of projects in the performing arts, social services, wildlife conservation, native concerns, and international development. The Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary was one of the largest projects funded by the Foundation, and one in which Lee himself would have taken great pleasure.