Two local councillors are hoping to help forge a trail of history in southeast Winnipeg.
Couns. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) and Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) recently announced joint plans to develop a trail on the west side of the Seine River, which will lead north from John Bruce Road, where there is a city park, to Richfield Avenue.
The trail will encompass the site of the original mill owned by the parents of Louis Riel and will tentatively be called Sentier Gabriel Dufault Pathway in honour of Gabriel Dufault, a prominent member of the Métis and francophone communities in Manitoba, Mayes said.
Mayes said the idea for the trail has been talked about for several years — symbolized by signs along the riverbank stating "site of future trail" — but a motion was recently passed by the Riel community committee to give the green light to the trail after it was discovered there was money available in the Seine River Waterway Acquisition Fund. At this stage, he estimates the project will cost around $300,000.
"The Riel family had a piece of land and we thought it would be appropriate to give it historical recognition. In terms of the trail’s exact length, that has yet to be decided, but it will likely be around half a mile and run close to three different seniors’ buildings," he said.
Mayes said the trail system in south Winnipeg, in general, continues to grow and thrive and will once again become a boon for Winnipeggers once the spring weather finally arrives.
"There were none of these trials when I was a kid," he added, noting the Gabrielle Roy Trail opened last year and there is also a trail on the east side of the Seine River recognizing Louis Riel’s father.
"When I think about Bishop Grandin, and when I used to run alongside it in the ’80s, you were basically on the side of the road. Now you see people biking and people pushing strollers. The Bishop Grandin Greenway has been a huge success. It’s about keeping people active and healthy. In terms of this latest trail, we want to move it forward, as it will be a real benefit to the community. We think we’ve found the money, at no extra cost to the taxpayer, so why not do it now?"
Vandal said the proposed trail will represent the culture and history of the area, as well as the significance of the Seine River.
"The trail symbolizes the importance of the Métis in St. Vital over the generations, which is something Gabriel Dufault has dedicated his life to," Vandal said. "The Seine is a wonderful natural and historical treasure in our city. It needs to be protected and enhanced for everyone’s enjoyment."
Mayes said the St. Vital and St. Boniface wards are divided by the river at the site of the future trail.