Sioux Valley purchases park with 'cultural and historical significance' for First Nation
Purchase of lease, operations of Grand Valley Park near Brandon is part of larger economic picture, says chief
A First Nation in southwestern Manitoba hopes to develop its economic opportunities with the purchase of a popular tourism destination near the province's second-largest city.
Sioux Valley Dakota Nation has purchased the operations and lease of Grand Valley Park, about 10 kilometres west of Brandon.
The site is located within a provincial park, so the land has to be leased from the province. Sioux Valley will own the associated businesses.
Under the new lease agreement, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation will maintain and operate the park, cultural site, recreational vehicle camping area and winter tube park at Grand Valley.
"I think the park has an important cultural and historical significance for us, not only for our nation but for Indigenous people in Manitoba and Canada across the country," said Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Chief Jennifer Bone.
"[We] will be in a position to expand ... the recreation, the cultural activities within that park, and we're hoping to increase economic development through additional services."
The purchase of the Grand Valley lease is part of a larger picture as Sioux Valley works to establish its own economic development corporation.
"We've been quite busy … wanting to see our nation progress," Bone said. "Everybody has their vision and what they want to see for our nation, and it's all positive."
That includes "new ideas and taking the chance of … the opportunities that arise for our nation, such as Grand Valley Park," she said.
Sioux Valley is currently trying to find out if it can get the latest addition to the park — Tubin' at Grand Valley Park, which offers snow tubing — up and running this winter. The First Nation is working with the previous lease policy owner, who will help in the transfer of operations.
The park was formerly leased and operated by Jordan Ross and his wife, Katherine Jeroski. Ross, who was 41, died unexpectedly this past summer.
The Dakota have historical connections to Grand Valley Park, said Bone. Sioux Valley has hosted several events at the space, including cultural camps and activities for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Bone says the hope is to upgrade some of the park's amenities and facilities to encourage other groups to use the space.
"It's a beautiful site," she said.
"We'll provide more accessibility for community members and provide some educational resources and ... the history of that area," said Bone.
"That's our traditional territory for Dakota people.… We're really reclaiming and revitalizing that area."
Honouring a legacy
Following her husband's death, Jeroski sold the assets of the business — including a campground, a wedding venue and the tube park — along with the lease to Sioux Valley, after receiving approval from the province.
"My late husband Jordan and I always felt like we had a good working relationship with Sioux Valley," Jeroski told CBC.
When the First Nation expressed interest in taking over the park, it "kind of felt like the right choice and a natural fit … knowing that they had ties to the land," she said.
Jeroski and her husband took over the lease of Grand Valley Park in 2016.
The space had been abandoned and was in "rough shape" at the time, she said. With Ross taking the lead, they worked to "bring life back to the park" as a "labour of love for our family."
Along with expanding the campground and other amenities at the park over the years, they opened Tubin' at Grand Valley Park in December last year.
Ross established bonds with the community and visitors, Jeroski said, and people looked forward to visiting the campground because of his kindness and welcoming demeanour.
Grand Valley was not just a business but "a way of life" for the family, she said. Ross loved "zipping around" with a golf cart to greet customers and spent many hours with campers who became friends.
"Jordan will be remembered as the charismatic community leader and entrepreneur who made a lasting impact on the lives he touched," she said.
"His projects always focused on bringing the community together, and no project was too big or too small."