Dimps Horn cringes every time another house goes up on Watch Lake.
They’re on the far side of the lake right now but it’s a stark reminder of what could come.
Construction has been running rampant in the area, changing the landscape significantly from when she was a girl.
“My God, how much things have changed.”
Horn, 72, and her family moved to the area in 1950. There was no running water or electricity. Their neighbours were few and far between.
She remembers when she could look out across the lake and see nothing but trees.
“I remember how angry I was when my dad and uncle sold 15 of our lots,” says Horn, who runs the Watch Lake Lodge. “I was 12 or 13 and I was so angry they were selling our land.”
Over the years, the area has shifted from ranching to tourism. Both Watch Lake and Green Lake have become popular summer destinations and fishing holes.
Resorts and dude ranches have come and gone over the years. The Flying U Ranch, where Horn attended school as a girl, is still there along with another seven resorts in the area. Green Lake Provincial Park has 11 sites, while cabins along the lake are being converted into permanent homes.
Tourism and agriculture will always be affected by nature and the Elephant Hill Wildfire in 2017 was a revelation for Horn.
Though the fire crept within three kilometres of her resort, only rangeland and range fencing were lost, not people or homes.
The ranch was not evacuated and they continued to work. One day, Horn says she realized that “what we have here is special to everyone.”
Her family has a long history on the land.
Her grandparents Stan and Sadie Eden arrived at Watch Lake in a taxi in 1918. They had just gotten married after Stan returned from serving in the First World War.
Life was hard for the couple, who raised a family of four while establishing their ranch. It was a challenge getting their children to school. In the early days, their eldest sons, Don and Ross, had to travel to Green Lake for instruction by Mr. J.H. Livingston. The boys had to cross Watch Lake by boat and then walk the rest of the way across Watch Lake Ridge.
It wasn’t the easiest trip in good weather and became cold and dangerous during the winter.
By early 1928, with more children at Watch Lake, the community decided to build a school closer to home. They needed a teacher. Marion Mobbs was willing to teach but she and her family had nowhere to live. Stan donated 80 acres to the Mobbs family, who had four children. Mobbs taught for four years, handing over the class to Ada Young, who took over the teaching duties until the school closed in 1934.
The old school house still stands about one-and-a-half miles from Watch Lake Lodge.
Horn, the sole proprietor of the lodge, would love to see things stay the same.
In some ways, nothing has changed. The visitors to the lodge are like family, often three and four generations of returning clientele. When they visit, Horn says it feels like a family reunion.
“I’m happy to be here, healthy, and with a few good years under my belt.”
But she knows change is inevitable.
“If I ever left here it would change in a moment.”