Ste Agathe Community Development Inc. (CDI) has unveiled a multimillion-dollar plan to revitalize Cartier Park into a stay-and-play destination for visitors from near and far.
The non-profit organization’s board of directors released a new park master plan at its annual general meeting last month.
Nadi Design, a Winnipeg-based landscape architecture firm, formulated the plan, based on direction from a CDI subcommittee and recommendations contained in a long-term recreation outlook adopted two years ago by the RM of Ritchot.
The park plan proposes an estimated $2.8 million worth of improvements for the 35-acre green space, located at the northwest corner of Highway 75 and Provincial Road 305.
"It’s a huge sum of money so we’ll have to take it in phases," CDI president Claude Lemoine said.
Subcommittee member Christie de Rocquigny said it had been about two decades since the park’s guiding documents had seen a comprehensive update.
The new plan has three goals: increase usage of the park, establish revenue streams to cover operations and upkeep, and meet emerging recreation needs in the young, growing community.
The plan also proposes a new name, Cheyenne Park, to align with Ste Agathe’s annual festival, Cheyenne Summer Fest, itself a nod to the SS Cheyenne, a 19th century Red River steamboat whose boiler is displayed in town.
The park was originally named after George-Etienne Cartier, a Father of Confederation from present-day Quebec who helped usher in the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada.
"We realized that nobody really understood the significance behind the original name, and a lot of our (local) kids have always just called it Cheyenne Park." de Rocquigny said.
The park currently offers 54 campsites, a 4,500-sq-ft. event centre, ball diamonds, horseshoes pit, beach volleyball courts, disc golf course, wetland pond, walking paths, and barbecue shelters.
"I think it’s greatly underutilized at this point," Lemoine said. "We’ve got some activities but we’re not getting enough campers."
The event centre is the park’s primary revenue stream.
"On a normal year, it’s pretty busy," de Rocquigny said.
Other than a couple of Green Team students hired each summer with provincial funding, the bulk of the work of maintaining the park falls to the CDI’s seven-member board of directors. Lemoine said hiring a park manager would be ideal.
"Right now, we’re very dependent on volunteers to maintain the park."
Expanding the park’s campsite offerings and related amenities is a key part of the new master plan. Short-term and seasonal RV sites are proposed, along with full-service glamping (glamourous camping) sites and shower and laundry facilities.
A naturalized swimming hole, redeveloped from the existing wetland pond, would anchor the camping area. A place to swim was the most-requested amenity among respondents to a survey conducted during the RM’s recreation study.
Lemoine said the swimming hole could help regionalize the park’s appeal.
"We want to be able to provide recreation facilities and activities for the community and the surrounding area," he explained.
A fire pit lounge, playground improvements, and parking lot expansion are also planned.
The location of the park presents both challenges and opportunities. Town residents must cross a busy four-lane highway to access the park entrance.
"Cartier Park is somewhat isolated from the rest of the Ste. Agathe community," the RM’s recreation blueprint noted.
But the park is also prominently placed, with gas pumps and convenience stores nearby.
"It’s on a main highway and close to the city," Lemoine said. "We’d like to be able to promote it as, stay, come and camp, and you’re 15 minutes away from the city."
Now that the master plan is complete, Lemoine said the CDI must decide whether to develop the campsites or the swimming hole first. Lemoine said prioritizing the campsites may be advantageous for future improvements.
"There will be possibly an opportunity to presell some of those seasonal lots to help cover the cost of developing them," de Rocquigny noted.
Government grants, private fundraising, and corporate donations are needed if everything contained in the plan is to become a reality.
A timeline has yet to be drawn up, but Lemonie said the CDI wants to maintain momentum.
"The iron is hot now, so let’s get going, there’s an enthusiasm in the community to see it happen."
Grant funding has already been secured to refurbish the ball diamonds this year, which de Rocquigny said see a lot of use.