For a long time it was one of Westman’s best kept secrets, largely because the campers who used Victoria Park in Souris tried their best to keep it that way.
But when the community built a state-of-the-art water park several years ago, a whole new audience was introduced to the beauty and tranquility of the park.
"I think people are very proud of the park," chair of the Victoria Park Committee Phil Dorian said, "and it shows by the dedication of the people that dedicate their time and come to help to do the work down there."
That workload, however, has grown exponentially since the park was devastated by the 2011 flood. Perched along the Souris River, the park banks were no match for the flood as high water destroyed playground equipment, the bird sanctuary, and the park workshop.
"It was a total disaster," Dorian said. "The park is important to our town and every year so many things go on down there and you don’t really realized it until the flood hit. The flood destroyed half of the park and you realize that it has a huge effect on the community and businesses and when you realize it, then you got to go to work (to fix it.)"
The damage wasn’t just relegated to the man-made structures either as much of the lush grass and massive trees, that acted as umbrellas sheltering the area, also took a beating.
And like the trees and the grass, which began to bounce back this year, so too did the resolve of the community to ensure the park remains a favorite destination for decades to come. Public consultations regarding the future of the park recently came to a close and Dorian said he was impressed by the number of people who contributed to the process.
"There were a lot of ideas that came out of the consultations," Dorian said. "We wanted to hear what people want to see in the park and how they want the park to look."
Today, the park committee has a plan, essentially breaking the park into quadrants.
In the first quadrant, there is an emphasis on green space. The quadrant features the famous "Green Bowl," picnic areas, a promenade boardwalk, a beach area, pathways, and bird sanctuary complete with a movie screen on the back of the building.
The second quadrant focuses on the water park and existing campground. The quadrant features the park, tennis courts, splash pad and campground.
The third quadrant features natural vegetation overlooking the bird sanctuary. It also has several trails, a beach volleyball court, nature-based playground and Yurts that campers could use in the summer and snowmobilers could use in the winter.
And the final quadrant is the plateau which is a forested areas with trails, interpretive signage on wildlife and the history of the park. It also features a RV park that could be built on neighbouring agricultural land.
While Dorian said it is important to recognize that the plan is just that, a plan, he said the committee will now start to prioritize what aspects the park can begin to incorporate into the area.
"The plan isn’t set in stone," Dorian said. "It’s some of the stuff that people would like to see and now we have to sit down and decide what direction we want to go and what part we want to do in the short-term (plan) and what items we will do in the long-term (plan)."
The next question to be answered is how the park will pay for the upgrades?
"They could all be short-term if you had the money," Dorian said.
The park, which is largely funded by campground fees according to Dorian, also gets some contributions from the Town of Souris and RM of Glenwood.
Dorian said the committee will keep an eye on government programs that can help fund some of the cost of the plan, but he admitted at this point, the funding is still very much up in the air.