It’s a journey through history – an exercise of body, mind and spirit.
That’s how Gary Dyck describes the inaugural Peace Trek, which will take walkers, runners and cyclists down the Manitoba Peace Trail while fundraising for both the Mennonite Heritage Village and Eden Foundation.
“It’ll be good for community recreation and well-being,” says Dyck, Executive Director of Mennonite Heritage Village. “The trail has a sort of pilgrimage feel to it.”
First announced in the spring, the Peace Trail was the idea of retired University of Manitoba professor Glen Klassen, a Steinbach resident, and was championed by the EastMenn Historical Committee. Beginning at the confluence of the Red and Rat Rivers known as Mennonite Landing, the trail follows rural roads, country paths and the Tourond Creek as it winds its way to Steinbach and the Dirk Willems Peace Garden at the Heritage Village.
“The landing site is already a highlight,” explains Dyck. “It’s where Mennonites in the 1870s got off the International Steamboat and made their trek to settle a new village.”
Contemporary trekkers will also encounter the Gruenfeld Cemetery, where some early settlers are buried, as well as Chortitz Church, the first Mennonite church in Manitoba. Additionally, plaques already indicate the Metis system of rivers and their conversion to the mile-measured quadrants assigned to the Mennonites by the Canadian government.
“It’s just an amazing trail,” says Dyck, adding that the existing paths, parks and waypoints seemed to offer a natural invitation to events such as the Peace Trek. “We thought we could capitalize on it and create an event to make sure people know about it and use it, and at the same time raise money for Mennonite Heritage Village and the Eden Foundation.”
At 48 kilometres, the Peace Trail is slightly longer than a traditional marathon, which is why Dyck suggests groups of families and friends complete it as a relay. And, of course, anyone is welcome to walk, jog or run any segment of the trail they wish. Cyclists will particularly enjoy the scenery and varied terrain. Food stations along the way will allow participants to rest, nourish and visit.
The start time is set for 9:00 a.m. at the Mennonite Landing. Later in the afternoon, the Peace Trek’s completion will be celebrated at Dirk Willems Peace Garden, which will also hold its official grand opening.
“It’s looking really beautiful,” says Dyck. “The flowers are in full bloom and plaques are going to be added just in time for August 20th. We’ll have a small ceremony, and food will be available and participants will also be given some swag, some special gifts. We’re really excited about that.”
The event’s focus, he emphasizes, is to raise money for the Heritage Village and Eden. The target is $30,000, to be split evenly between the two organizations, and registrants are encouraged to text and email their networks of family, friends and co-workers. Registration is $50 in advance or $75 for walk-ups and can be completed on the Mennonite Heritage Village website.
“We know there’s a lot of need for well-being in our community, and Eden is doing a great job,” says Dyck. “And as a museum, to want to also provide well-being for our community.”