In the heart of Otterburne, a small town located northwest of St Pierre-Jolys, residents are embarking on an ambitious project to create a vibrant community hub and green space. Spearheaded by the Otterburne Community Green Space Committee, chaired by Jason Braun, the initiative aims to transform an underutilized area next to the Post Office.

"We've got a Green Space Committee that's been put together for this. We want to create a space in our little town of Otterburne here. We want to have an active space, a kind of gathering place for the community."

The green space next to the Otterburn Post Office will be transformed with walkways, gardens and picnic shelters.The green space next to the Otterburn Post Office will be transformed with walkways, gardens and picnic shelters.

The idea for this project has been brewing for about a year now, with extensive community engagement shaping its direction. Braun says, "We've engaged community members, councillors, and are now reaching out to residents in the area.”

He notes they held a community open house in June, hoping to get feedback from their residents.

Residents of Otterburne attended an open house showing new design plans for the green space next to their Post Office.Residents of Otterburne attended an open house showing new design plans for the green space next to their Post Office.

A representative of Urban Systems, the company hired to create the designs of the new green space, Rachelle Kirouac pointed out that an integral part of the project was community-driven.

"The Otterburne Community Green Space Committee expressed the need for a central, accessible space. They said we have this idea. We need something that feels central and accessible to not just Otterburne community members, but you know the surrounding region as well. We want to feel central in the RM and we want to create a space where we can come and we can gather. We can share culture, heritage and history, excitement, play, and all of those great things that are going to give us a little bit of added joy in our day-to-day."

The project has progressed from initial brainstorming sessions to detailed site analyses and community workshops. Kirouac continues.

"Through these workshops, we asked residents about their priorities—whether it's accessible trails, seasonal activities, or play amenities. These inputs have shaped our design approach."

Martha Petrusevish (far right) is the Fundraiser and Projects Coordinator for the RM of De Salaberry chats excitedly with residentsMartha Petrusevish (far right) is the Fundraiser and Projects Coordinator for the RM of De Salaberry chats excitedly with residents at the Otterburne open house. 

In terms of funding and logistics, Martha Petrusevich, the fundraiser and projects coordinator for the RM of De Salaberry says,

"We applied for grants and received support from various stakeholders, including the RM of De Salaberry, Crow Wing Trail, Metis Local, Providence College, and local residents. We’ve got matching grants and community partnerships that have been crucial in kickstarting our phases."

Noting they received $20,000 from the 2023/24 Province of Manitoba Building Sustainable Communities Program.

Currently, the initiative is in its early phases, with immediate plans including basic amenities like picnic tables and a temporary washroom, as well as moving the big red chair to the area where the Green Space will be developed.

Petrusevich says this is multi-phased plan, which has already started with Phase 1 including volunteers from Providence and another organization from Winnipeg to help plant trees. She adds the design will include a Crow Wing Trail, trail-head, because there is currently none in Otterburne, even though the trail runs through the town.

"So that people can come, and they can go boating or kayaking, or just playing in the water or fishing. And then we want some fireplaces to have a campfire roast some weiners, we would like to have a couple of shelters for shade and picnic tables, and just have a low maintenance area for the community to gather together."

Future Green Space set to be built near the "big red chair" next to the Otterburne Post Office.Future Green Space will be built near the "big red chair" next to the Otterburne Post Office.

As for the design specifics, Rachelle Kirouac highlighted the integration of existing natural elements and the careful consideration of the site's ecological impact.

"We're focusing development on the upper bank, away from the primary flood area, while preserving mature vegetation. The goal is to maintain the area's natural beauty while enhancing its usability."

Looking ahead, the project organizers are eager to involve the community at every step, Kirouac adds,

"We're not just asking for feedback; we're asking for active participation. Whether through donations, volunteering, or simply sharing their ideas, every contribution counts." 

With ambitions to create not just a community space but also a trailhead for the Crow Wing Trail, the initiative holds promise for both locals and visitors alike. Kirouac notes,  "We want this space to be more than just a park; it's a place for people to connect with nature and each other.”

As Otterburne gears up for this transformative project, the spirit of collaboration and community shines bright, and Jason Braun is excited.

"This is an idea that's taking shape with every voice we’ve heard. We want to make sure that the vision of this space, matches what the community wants. And then eventually get to a spot where we can start fundraising and make more of this a reality."

Jason Braun notes that by next summer, they hope to have a firmer plan in place.

The journey towards realizing Otterburne's new green space promises to be a collaborative effort, fueled by the passion and vision of its residents. For residents of Otterburne and the RM of De Salaberry who want to give feedback, please click this link.