The group spearheading the charge to restore Roche Percee Park has decided to move ahead with their plans.
The members of Southeast Tours and Trails Inc., voted last Wednesday to accept the Ministry of Tourism’s offer of a one-year lease on the park. Chairwoman Mary Rose Boyer said since their plans became public, a number of people came out in support of their efforts, prompting them to move forward.
“So much work had been done to this point and there was so much positive response from the community towards having it open,” she said. “People would stop us on the street, or phone me, or phone the other members. There were also people who gave us their names and phone numbers who said call us for the work day or want to sit on the board.
“It just kind of took on a life of its own after a bit. Today somebody stopped me in the grocery store and offered me some money.”
Once a popular recreation space for many in southeast Saskatchewan as well as for tourists, the park was closed well over a decade ago due to cuts in government funding, vandalism and Dutch elm disease which hit the area hard. Despite that, many have continued to use the space for picnics and nature walks.
However, in a previous interview with The Mercury, Boyer said she and the other members of the group heard rumours that the government had planned to allow grazing in the park and was also considering selling the land which would close the area to the public once and for all.
Not wanting to see that happen, SETT began looking into their options and was offered the one-year lease which they decided to accept.
With that hurdle cleared, Boyer said the next steps are to set up a sub-committee and decide what they want to do with the park.
“There will be a board that will be established of people in the community who would also sit with two members of Southeast Tours and Trails and organize and decide how the park will be managed.”
Because the group does not have a lot of money, Boyer said their options will be limited for the first year at least. Among the ideas they are considering is operating the site as a wilderness park.
“It would be for people who want to stay overnight with their RVs or motorhomes and just carry on or people who just like to picnic for the day and come with their owns bathrooms and stuff,” said Boyer.
“Someone mentioned they had stayed in a place like that, it was actually billed as a wilderness park, and it was great. I think it will be out of necessity for the first year. We are going to focus on getting a board structure set up so we can figure out how to manage the park and then clean it up so if people want to go in and have a picnic they can do that.”
Boyer noted that cleaning up the park will be a major task. There has been extensive vandalism over the years and a number of the trees that were cut down because of Dutch elm disease are still in the area and will need to be burned.
She said a work bee will be scheduled for the near future and anyone who is interested in helping out is asked to call her at 634-7450. She added they are also open to any groups who would like to offer assistance.
“This is very exciting, and of course with all things that are exciting, it is also a little scary. But all we can do is our best and with the more help from the community that we can get in terms of advice, ideas, financial help and brawn will make it a bigger success.”