Reconciliation on Discovery Centre’s agenda

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It was a quieter year than most for Brandon’s Riverbank Discovery Centre in 2021, but it was still better than 2020.

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This article was published 04/01/2022 (328 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It was a quieter year than most for Brandon’s Riverbank Discovery Centre in 2021, but it was still better than 2020.

Though the centre had to cancel its Canada Day festivities for a second straight year, loosened COVID-19 restrictions over the summer allowed more events to take place overall, including weekend markets and Truth and Reconciliation Week activities.

General manager James Montgomery is expected to deliver a progress report on behalf of the venue and Brandon Tourism at tonight’s Brandon City Council meeting.

File The Riverbank Discovery Centre hosted more events in 2021 than in 2020, such as the Orange Shirt Day walk in September. The centre says it plans to increase its reconciliation efforts this year.

“For two years in a row now, we’ve really tried to make the best of a very difficult situation,” Montgomery told the Sun Monday. “Even though it’s difficult for everyone, it doesn’t make it any less difficult for any individual person, business or organization.”

According to Montgomery’s presentation for tonight’s council meeting, the “Made in Manitoba Markets” held every second Saturday last summer garnered an average of 400 to 500 visitors, with the final day of the season drawing approximately 1,500.

These markets, which Montgomery said were set up “the right way” to keep guests safe, were popular enough that the centre intends to bring them back on Saturdays this year, with an additional market on Canada Day as long as festivities are still going ahead as planned.

Montgomery described the Truth and Reconciliation Week activities last September as an extension of previous events Riverbank has hosted, like Orange Shirt Day.

“I think that Riverbank is the natural home for that kind of a week,” he said. “We were able to, with [Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council community co-ordinator] Michèle LeTourneau’s leadership, take it to sort of a next level. We’re looking forward to a long-term partnership for that week, but also for Indigenous Peoples’ Day [on June 21], which for two years in a row now was not a large event. We’re looking for it to be a large event again in 2022.”

He also expressed appreciation for the region’s Indigenous groups trusting Riverbank to hold reconciliation-focused events like that, as well as burning a sacred fire at one of the picnic shelters following the discovery of bodies buried at former residential school sites across Canada.

Going forward, Montgomery would like to see the Discovery Centre hire a full-time Indigenous interpreter for the grounds. Currently, the venue is only able to hire interpreters during the summer through a student jobs program in association with the Brandon Friendship Centre and the Manitoba Métis Federation.

The All Nations Sharing Circle that opened last year is also a key component to the centre’s goals concerning reconciliation.

This spring, a new addition to the grounds is set to open. First announced last year, a cove along the Assiniboine River will have a dock so visitors can launch their own kayaks or canoes or rent them from A&L Cycle for day use.

Last year, the Terry Fox Run was held at the Riverbank Discovery Centre for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Montgomery said it is likely it will return to the Riverbank again this year, with future editions of the event being decided upon on an annual basis.

Later this month, the City of Brandon will enter budget deliberations for the upcoming fiscal year. In the city’s master plan, the Riverbank Discovery Centre is due to receive trail improvements that would connect the Riverbank to Queen Elizabeth Park.

Other essential upgrades the Discovery Centre is requesting from the city include restoring the landscaping and trees around the nearby lift station after it was built, adding a boat launch to the east end of the grounds and connecting the tall grass trail to the path that runs along the pedestrian bridge.

Further down the list, the centre wants repairs to the gazebo next to the playgrounds and the fountain that pours water to the water wheel by the dump station.

Another project announced by the centre last year was the creation of a sculpture garden showcasing the work of bronze sculptor Peter Sawatzky. To create the centrepiece river crossing sculpture for the garden, the centre is still fundraising the estimated $350,000 cost. Approximately half of the necessary funds have been collected.

The centre is also home to Brandon Tourism, which Montgomery said will continue to work on attracting people to the city by using its new smartphone app and partnership with the external Driftscape tourism app.

» cslark@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @ColinSlark

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