Thirty years ago, Glen Barrette walked into an empty lot that would become his backyard on Brahms Bay. The lot backed onto Bunn's Creek Centennial Park, a hidden relic in River East at the time. With the park as his backdrop, Barrette decided this would be the perfect place to build a home for his young family.
"I stood here and I'm looking -- do I see any highrises? No. Do I see any power lines? No. Oh my God, there's a creek back here and a little bridge back here. This is paradise," Barrette said. "It's a dream come true."
Since 1984, Barrette said he's enjoyed exploring every nook and cranny of Bunn's Creek Park with his two sons, now in their 20s. With just over 25 hectares of land and three kilometres of trails, that is quite a bit of ground to cover.
"We walked every trail and then as they got a little bigger, we biked every trail. And then, in 1997 with the flood, we took the canoe down every trail," said Barrette. Once the city decided it wouldn't allow any more water within the Perimeter and activated the floodway in 1997, Barrette and his boys paddled away to their hearts' content.
Now the park is used by River East residents for a multitude of reasons -- family picnics, bonfires, biking, jogging and the occasional Latin dance party. There's a tobogganing slide, skating rink and cross-country skiing on the trails in the wintertime. But back when Barrette was a kid in the 1960s, Bunn's Creek wasn't such a fun playground. He grew up in East Kildonan and said locals had an unflattering name for the park back in the day (which he refused to divulge).
"We used to ride our bikes here when I was a kid and it was a real mess," Barrette said. "There was an awful lot of mink farmers and fur farmers in this area and that was encroaching on where we were... there was garbage thrown in the creek and it was just a mess."
Usually once a year, reports would surface from area residents of an unwelcome stink wafting from Bunn's Creek, too.
"They'd follow it back and it would come back to this creek. These farmer guys in the area, being kind of secluded and being on their own, were making their own booze and the mash was being thrown into the creek."
The city took ownership of Bunn's Creek Centennial Park in 1970, and things have been much safer since, said Barrette.
"There was a noticeable difference and I'll give kudos to the city for all these nooks, corners and parks. There's parks everywhere, really," said Barrette. "They're there for the young families, they're there for the kiddies, and it's fun, you know."
Barrette points out the park also has an abundance of wildlife. He's seen many foxes and beavers in the park and a few unconventional animals, too.
"I saw a porcupine one time, which was amazing. How often do you see that in the city? There used to be a crane that came in the spring and fall, I guess because of the (creek)," Barrette said. He remembers ducking to avoid the crane swooping through his backyard.
There is also a mad dash by locals every spring when they find out the wild plums, saskatoon berries and chokecherries are sprouting in the bushes behind Barrette's yard.
"There's always something going on and it's fun and to be a part of that, we're very lucky," said Barrette.