The EastMenn Historical Committee is working on a Mennonite pilgrimage in southeastern Manitoba called the Peace Trail.
Glen Klassen is a member of the EastMenn Historical Committee and a retired University of Manitoba professor. He says the Peace Trail will take people from one historical Mennonite site to another here in the East Reserve.
"We start at the Mennonite landing site close to St. Agathe at the junction of the Rat and the Red River and the terminus would be at the museum where there is a new peace garden, the Dirk Willems Peace Garden. So, it is about 52 kilometres or so that we have recommended. It is mostly on country roads, there are a few segments that are more in the bush or along a creek."
The waypoints include the Crow Wing Trail River Lot Plaques, Niverville’s Red River Cart and History Wall, the Shantz Immigration Shed Cairn, the Tourond Discovery Centre, the Gruenfeld Cemetery Cairn, Chortitz Historical Church and Cemetery, and Rosenthal Nature Park among others.
Klassen says the Eastmenn Historical Committee was inspired by a recent pilgrimage from St. Pierre to the Grotto in St. Malo which was quite well attended.
"I thought, 'why don't we have a pilgrimage route from the Mennonite landing site?” He adds “Each waypoint will have a post which will tell you how many kilometres you have gone and maybe a little bit about the site and there will also be directional markers if there are important turns that you have to take, there will be an arrow showing you which direction to go."
The Peace Trail could be used by anyone, and Klassen says he envisions it having more than one purpose.
"In the process, they will learn a lot about history, about ecology and so on. Each of those waypoints will have information associated with it either there on a plaque or on a QR code that they can look up on the internet so that this can be a learning journey, a spiritual journey, or just a recreational journey."
Klassen estimates the total cost of the project to be about $50K which would cover the waypoint posts, garbage cans, brochures, and website. He notes in the future, facilities could be improved and expanded on if they are able.
To help pay for this project, Klassen says they are applying for grants and asking for some help.
"Trails Manitoba is quite generous but you have to match two to one so for every dollar they give us, we have to raise two dollars so we are approaching all of the municipalities, Ritchot, Niverville, Hanover and Steinbach, first of all just for their approval and then for their support of our grant applications and then maybe some money as well."
Klassen says they plan to open the Peace Trail this summer and already have an event planned.
"The [Mennonite Heritage Village] is planning a major pilgrimage along the peace trail, more or less for the fall, in August. They will be looking for people who want to participate in that event. They are looking for a lot of people that will then take their bicycles or even walk the trail toward the end of August."