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Manitoba 150 Grant Showcasing The History of Lake Minnewasta 2020

L-R  Clare Agnew Community Services City of Morden, Mayor Brandon Burley, MAF Executive Director Lynda Lambert, Lautenschlager Family Fund holders Earl and Jessica Lautenschlager, MAF Board Treasurer Ken Friesen and MAF Board Chair Allison Braun.

By Lorne Stelmach

A new City of Morden project is showcasing the history of Lake Minnewasta.

Modelled after the Confederation Park project that focusses on Morden’s history related to the world wars, this new set of historical plaques  at the lake is in recognition of Manitoba’s 150 birthday.

Clare Agnew, director of community services for the City of Morden,  observed that there was no shortage of possible material for this new display.

They began thinking in terms of the more recent history around the lake but came to realize they needed to also touch on the more ancient history including the glacial Lake Agassiz and ancient indigenous use of the land before leading up to the creation of the lake and beach.

“We just thought if we were going to be creating this around the history, we really needed to go further back. It goes quite a way back,” said Agnew.

“It’s just small plaques, so that was kind of the challenge. How do you capture 20,000 years of history on these plaques. The challenge was how to give the history the credit it deserves in such a small space.”

The project was funded by the Morden Area Foundation through the Manitoba 150 Legacy Project Fund as well as the Lautenschlager Family Fund and the City of Morden.

The genesis of the idea goes back to when Morden hosted the Communities in Bloom conference last fall, and Dr. Gordon Goldsborough from the Manitoba Historical Society challenged communities in how to celebrate Manitoba’s 150 birthday.

Although concerts and events are a fun way to celebrate, it is important to take these opportunities to also capture history in a community, Agnew recalled of his presentation.

The community services department worked on the project for six months, researching and talking to people in the community to ensure the information was accurate, she noted. They also gathered information from the CFDC and Morden history book as well as long time campers and beach committee members such as Howie Sager, Jim Hartry, Rick Mutton, Ed Maddock, Bob Jordan and Catherine Evenson.

Conversations with David Scott, a traditional oral historian of Swan Lake First Nation, also provided information on indigenous land use prior to Lake Minnewasta being created.

“I’m thrilled with how the project has come together,” said Agnew.

“We researched many sources of information in completing the project. The challenge was keeping the information concise and manageable on the plaque displays, as there’s so much history to share,” she said. “The plaques are like the displays in Confederation Park, and there was positive feedback from those displays, so I hope people will feel the same about these new ones.”

Agnew noted they now see the potential for more projects like this in the community, especially after having connected with David Scott.

“What we realized is we could do another whole series of six plaques just on the indigenous land and history. Maybe that’s a piece we should also be trying to capture,” she suggested.

“We have this (Confederation Park) model now, and we do see people reading them, and the feedback we get is positive, so I think we should be doing this in other locations in Morden.

“If residents have an idea on future history projects or locations, please share them with our department,” encouraged Agnew.

“It’s important that we capture the history of Morden,” said Mayor Brandon Burley in welcoming the lake history project. “They’ve created an educational opportunity and a place to relax overlooking our beautiful lake.”