Valley Life Recreation (VLR) came into 2022 with remarkable momentum from what was a first incredible year of fundraising in 2021. To recap, the Squirrel Hills Trail Park was first publicly announced in July of 2021 and by the end of that year, VLR had raised approximately $230,000 for this concept of a new outdoor recreation space that has brought us all together tonight.
Going into 2022, our goals were lofty, to say the least. We desperately wanted to begin construction on the trail park in 2022 and with some successful grant applications early in the year, we succeeded in doing so, as the Executive Committee report shared earlier.
Significant funding acquired by Valley Life Recreation in 2022 included $75,000 from Trails Manitoba and another $75,000 from the Province of Manitoba’s Building Sustainable Communities program. Thanks to assistance from Bruce Curle, Director of Operations for Richardson Pioneer in Minnedosa, VLR was successful with a $50,000 funding request from the Richardson Foundation.
Early last year we received an email from Derek Lockhart, former Plant Manager for Saputo Dairy Products in Brandon, in which he suggested looking into Saputo’s Legacy Program. With Derek’s support, in less then 8 weeks we’d secured a $25,000 contribution from Saputo for the trailhead portion of the trail park. Later in the year, we also received notice that a program we’d been unsuccessful with in 2021, the Healthy Communities Initiative, had received more funding and wanted to grant us a portion of what we’d originally asked for. This led to another $25,000 in funding for the trailhead portion of the park.
We were also very pleased to have the Minnedosa Rotary Club not only provide $5,000 in funding, but their encouragement to look at the long-term sustainability of the park has proved very valuable and we are very grateful for their support and leadership.
Some very generous citizens from the community and surrounding area also made the decision to give, including Stewart Lewis in the amount of $5,000, Dr. Khandelwal with $4,000 bringing his total contribution to $9,000, along with $1,000 contributions from Richard & Ester Golletz, Randy & Gwen Usick, Minnedosa Insurance, Valley Motor Lodge, MNP, and Simard Industrial with $1,250.
Last but not least, after listening to a podcast interview with the founder of Hydro Flask, a company that specializes in making stainless steel flasks and soft goods for use in the outdoors, VLR was made aware of a giving program the company has. In what felt like a bit of a moonshot, VLR submitted an application to Hydro Flask’s Parks For All program and ended up being one of just twenty (20) internationally awarded non-profits. This resulted in a $20,000 contribution toward the trailhead we plan to begin building this year.
VLR also hosted the Outdoors For Everyone lottery which resulted in a total of $20,000 being given away to 6 lucky winners for spending at Stream N Wood and A&L Cycle in Brandon. We cannot thank both of those stores enough for their incredible contributions to making that lottery happen. (In attendance: James Treloar from A&L Cycle; Ethan & Clayton from Stream N Wood). Mark Timmons also helped us out with profits from the sales of his book, Man on the Run, and we launched our 3rd annual fundraising calendar to success once again.
Looking forward, Valley Life Recreation has $170,000 in funding applications currently pending which, if successful, would bring our fundraising total to $726,000. (Mention we have heard that $70k has been approved but cannot be announced for another 8 weeks.)
While we have been very focused on fundraising to meet our goals based on project estimates supplied to us by our landscape architect firm, VLR will now be moving toward engaging local builders to determine what the actual build cost is going to be for the trailhead. It is hoped that the majority of the trail park, which includes the new trail system AND the new trailhead, will be built for between $700k and $750K.
While raising all of this money has been very exciting, when it comes to building the trailhead, we are looking forward to spending as much as possible, as locally as possible. Projects like this are exciting because of the end product—we all get an exciting new world class facility in which to recreate outdoors—but remember that much of these hundreds of thousands of dollars we’ve brought to the community from far and wide will remain in the region as we hire as locally as possible.
Overall, Valley Life Recreation ended 2022 with approximately $556,000 in funds raised and has never been more confident about the future of the Squirrel Hills Trail Park project. Pending the outcome of current grant applications and actual quotes to build what we’ve planned, it is likely—although not yet certain—that another $50K – $150k will need to be raised. We look forward to finding partners who connect with the story of what we are building, and those that can help us over the finish line of funding.
Dave Ternier; Board Chair
This report was originally prepared for and shared at the VLR Community Update and Annual General Meeting on April 4, 2023. Read the Executive Committee Report for 2022 here.