What started with a Shoreline Stabilization Project in August 2021, was completed in the fall of 2022 and is now being enjoyed by the many visitors of the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum in Steinbach.
Over the last three years, many individuals have needed mental health aids, and MHV Executive Director Gary Dyck says they felt it was necessary to do their part.
Dyck says, when it comes to healing and mental health, most people don’t usually think about the museum as an important or relevant source.
"After researching the ways that a museum could be a source of mental wellness therapy, the MHV partnered with Eastman Health and published a “Wellness Guide” for anyone who wants to have a therapeutic museum visit."
Dyck notes that the wellness pathway is intended to help individuals to slow down.
“The trail around the path is part of a 2-3 km trail, going from the woods of the museum, around the pond, and through the Peace Gardens. We planted over 100 trees, including fruit trees, on either side of the walking path."
They built a floating pathway over the water at the south end of the pond.
The walking path goes past the Berlin Wall, and connected the Peace Garden again and through the woods and back to the pond.
Dyck adds, “It’s been a beautiful project. First, restoring the shoreline around the whole pond, so it’s sloped and not eroding. Then getting the path installed around the pond and the dock-bridge. We've added the Dirk Willems Peace Garden in the past two years. It’s been a beautiful thing for well-being. We've kept a lot of green space. Then lately we’ve added the fountain."
Dyck says the MHV pond has never had a fountain. It’s an electrical fountain that will keep the water cleaner and aerated.
He adds, "One of our guests' favorite spots around the pond is a bench that has been placed directly across from the windmill. The fountain also creates some white noise to get rid of the noise of the traffic along the highway. We’re trying to build up the trees to create sort of a buffer so that you still always feel like you’re at the museum."
When asked whether visitors have already been using the pathway for mental purposes he emphatically says, "Yes. People are enjoying it more and more every day."
Dyck says that part of the Well-being Initiative was providing free passes to non-profit organizations that are also working with the vulnerable sector, low-income families, and the overwhelmed in our community. He shares a story about an individual who needed a lot of help and was invited to go for a walk around the MHV pond along their Well-path.
“We’ve been giving passes to Eden Health to give to their clients and then to anyone who needs it, to come and just kind of help to reduce the agitation and anxiety these times can bring. I always see it every time people come into the museum and then when they come out, they just look more relaxed and refreshed."
Dyck shares a story. "Last fall they came here very regularly and they shared with us that it was such a revitalizing experience. The individual came again and again. And just recently, this individual was able to get back to their job. They were able to get a fresh vision for their work again and got revitalized."
Dyck says there are probably many stories like that, "Just to be a part of that was exciting."
For individuals wanting to use the Wellness Pathway, Dyck says the best way may be by purchasing a 12-month Family membership pass.
"Then they can come to the MHV for 12 months because the museum grounds are open all year round now and we've added winter activities."