Community Futures Winnipeg River is a winner twofold after scoring a couple of big awards this year. The Community Futures organization won an award for the best community initiative from Manitoba at the May 25-28 Pan-Canadian Conference in Mount Tremblant, Quebec and then went on to win Manitoba's first annual Minister's Award for Excellence and Innovation.
In both cases the Lac du Bonnet-based office was celebrated for its role in the establishment and development of the La Vérendrye Trail tourism initiative.
The Honourable Ron J. Duhamel, Secretary of State for Western Economic Diversification, presented the first award at the closing banquet in Mont Tremblant. Later, during Community Futures Recogniton Week held Sept.11-17, he was able to reward the stafff a second time with his newly announced Award for Excellence and Innovation.
The La Vérendrye Trail is a regional heritage route linking communities along the Winnipeg River system to form a tourism corridor that not only promotes the historical significance of the region, but also acts as a catalyst for economic development. "We were absolutely thrilled at being chosen the winner from Manitoba for the national Community Initiatives contest and again for the Minister's Award," said Mary Greber, Executive Director of Community Futures Winnipeg River. "We are very proud of the La Vérendrye Trail initiative as a regional approach to community economic development."
What started as a CF project seven and a half years ago has evolved into an ongoing tourism marketing program that has sustained itself under the independent community-based La Vérendrye Trail Association, said Greber.
"With their regional focus and volunteer-based approach, Community Futures Development Corporations are uniquely positioned to identify strategic opportunities to meet local needs and to lead key community economic development initiatives," agreed Duhamel.
"The La Vérendrye Trail is an excellent example of coordination and cooperation, and has managed to assist communities and businesses make economic achievements collectively that they could not make on an individual basis." Community Futures Partners of Manitoba Chairperson Roland Dandeneau remarked that the La Vérendrye Trail exemplifies some of the truly remarkable work that Community Futures organizations are undertaking in Manitoba.
"Community Futures Winnipeg River is to be commended for their leadership role on this project and for developing the capacity within the region so that the communities could eventually assume ownership of the project," he said.
The project has brought together over 200 businesses and communities in a unique partnership to achieve a common goal of marketing the region as a tourist destination. The impact on tourism in the North Eastman region has been tremendous resulting in increased awareness and interest in the region's tourism opportunities. It has also contributed to a substantial increase in the number of tourists to the region as well as an increase in tourism-related business activity.