The "garbage hill," a former dumpsite that sits just south of Portage by the Hwy 240 ramp going to Southport, has been allocated for a toboggan run for the last several years. Portage Junk Yard Dogs Cycling Club is behind the project to turn the overall location into a multi-functional recreation park with the backing of the City of Portage la Prairie.
The park will feature hiking trails that are wheelchair accessible, as well as moderate and difficult bicycle riding paths, giving a full range of cycling experiences out there along with a park for kids where they can learn to ride.
President Blair Geisel says their commitment has been to continue using the hill for tobogganing. However, the toboggan run has suffered years of damage made by four-wheel drives and all-terrain vehicles.
"They've created very deep ruts in the toboggan run, some of them up to a foot deep, and these threats are obviously a problem when kids are trying to use the hill," says Geisel. "So, Real Foods and the Arendse family, who own Real Foods, have committed to do the repairs to the hill. In the last couple of weeks, soil has been brought to the site and they spread it, packed it and filled in the ruts that are on the face of the hill."
He explains the four-wheel drives and the all-terrain vehicles have returned and damage has occurred again.
"More repairs are going to have to be done, but we're going to have to work hard to keep the vehicles off these repairs, so that it's good for tobogganing," continues Geisel. "We're going to be putting up signage, and the RCMP are going to be helping us just to get the word out it will no longer be used for all-terrain vehicles and four-wheel drives."
As the project continues, Phase 2 is going to include a picnic area, washrooms, and a parking area.
"We're going to be improving the parking area. That will probably happen the year after construction begins and we expect construction to begin next spring," notes Geisel. "If we get started construction next spring, the trail system, which includes the hiking and the cycling, will be done probably mid-summer. Depending on how fundraising goes, we could probably be well down the road in constructing the washroom and picnic area. That will likely be finished in the year after."
Geisel says Kevin and Iris Yuill have donated $100,000 to the project in the form of a matching fund.
"For every dollar that we collect from the community in Portage la Prairie, the Yuills will match dollar-for-dollar to a maximum of $100,000," adds Geisel. "It still exists. I want to remind people to get out there and take advantage of this because for every dollar you put in it, it has double the impact. We have collected from the community approximately $50,000. So, we've got a ways to go, and we do need that money. We have maybe enough for developing the trail system, but we certainly don't have enough for the parking area and the washrooms, plus the picnic area."
Tim Arendse is owner of Real Foods. He explains he got involved with the repairs with Junk Yard Dogs after having known Geisel for many years.
"I've been watching Junkyard Dogs through the years building up and, honestly, I find it impressive," says Arendse. "It went from not knowing what it was -- this small bicycle club -- and now it's humongous. I read about it everywhere. I just find that so neat. I've always been a rural guy. I don't live in Portage but I'm in Portage every day, and I think this is a nice way to give back. We're farmers. We have all this equipment to help and it's just a just a positive thing to do. That's how we kind of got into it."
He adds it's not every day you get to be involved in a project like this.
The best way to give to the cause and donate is to see their website by Googling Portage Junk Yard Dogs. Geisel says the City is their partner and is collecting the money and issuing a tax receipt for tax purposes.
Click below for larger view of images.