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Tourism Group Reorganizes and Reassessess

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A long standing group of the Valley is getting a face-lift as new plans are in action for them to take over a project started by Swan Valley RISE and take tourism to the next level in the Valley.
Valley in the Mountains Tourism group (VM) has been around for quite some time and spent many years under the direction of Bev Potten. Upon her departure, Debbie Solloway decided to head up the group before she had to step down for personal reasons leaving the group without a leading force. A replacement has been selected and he is excited to make the first steps in big goals he has set out to achieve.
“There often is not much of a campaign or election to become the chair of a group,” said VM Chair David Minish. “Usually you get the person that was willing to do it – and I was that person.”
With great people stepping up behind him to help shoulder the workload, Minish is excited what the future will bring now that their attention is needed to drive the tourism efforts to fruition with SV RISE ready to take on a new project.
“VM had been a little bit lower profile doing what they do before SV RISE took on a project to try and enhance tourism in the Valley as an economic development project that it definitely is,” said Minish. “They wanted to raise the profile and take tourism to the next level and a little bit of that has been done.”
Many believe Swan Valley Rise to be solely about tourism but that is not the case. The group chooses avenues to focus on breaking down barriers to help enhance those areas before moving on to another project leaving another group to keep the momentum going in their absence.
“They will move on to another project,” said Minish. “That means that VM will carry on its efforts on tourism on its own.”
VM has been busy recently, discussing which avenues they’d like to see growth with and examining each other’s capabilities to determine their direction.
“We’re likely going to have to totally reorganize and lay a new foundation,” said Minish. “We need to get on firm footing to know where we are at and we’re looking at redoing our constitution. We’re redefining the relationship between VM and the municipal partners they’ve been with in the past, all in positive ways.”
Even at a provincial level, tourism is taking on a high profile with people noticing its importance to the infrastructure of communities.
“We’d like to be there to cash in on it,” said Minish. “I sit on a few different boards and my focus always is, most of all, on the quality of life here in the Valley. If we enhance tourism capabilities and bring in more people it will increase some of the economic opportunities but it will also enhance the quality of life for people here in the Valley.”
Future plans of VM include organizing and nurturing already established groups to come together and cross labour to help each other run events that would benefit them.
“Years ago, Swan Valley Sport Fishing Enhancement had a wonderful fishing tournament on Wellman Lake,” said Minish of just one example of such endeavour. “It was well received and a very popular event. It brought a lot of people and dollars and was an opportunity for a very good weekend in the Valley.”
The annual weekend has not occurred in some time and Minish believes that is in part to the amount of work put behind organizing such an event.
“The problem is all the people dedicated enough to make something like that happen want to partake in it too,” he said. “Pretty soon it’s not worth it to do that much work and not be able to partake in it. We need to pair them with another group so that they can help each other and everyone gets to win. A kind of labour exchange between some of the groups.”
In recent years there has been a lot of mention about a 24 hour race to happen at Thunder Hill but it has yet to see the manpower behind it that it would need to flourish. An arrangement such as the one Minish mentions would help curb some of those worries.
“If we could trade a little bit of labour we could have various events in the Valley,” said Minish. “I would like to get the Swan River Valley known as the event capital, having numerous events a year.”
The NorthWest Round-up and Exhibition is an attraction that receives much credit for its volunteers and brings in a great deal to the community and Minish would like to see more of the same occurring.
“There’s more events that we could have ongoing that would take a while to gather momentum but once they started they could be quite successful,” he said.
The improvements that CountryFest has aided Dauphin in making are undeniable and there’s no reason why the Valley wouldn’t be able to do something along the same lines.
“That was just someone’s idea and they took it and they worked hard and it’s become huge,” said Minish.
Minish also mentioned the crown land surrounding Thunder Hill and his hopes to not only have the Municipality of Swan Valley West get their hands on it but to transform it into something the entire Valley could benefit from.
“It’s been a dream of mine to get those quarters of section and create the Thunder Hill Recreation Area,” he said, noting the snowmobile trails, Tread the Thunder Bike Club trails and Ski Hill trails that all surround the area.
“You want to be very low on environmental impact but there could possibly be an ATV trail there too,” he said. “We could have an interpretive centre on Thunder Hill because there’s a lot of historical things in and around the area.
“There’s a prayer house with great historical significance and the First Nation’s people have a great connection there. It would be nice to incorporate all of those things in an area that would be a benefit.”
Minish noted that he has already been in contact with the province about the idea and is preparing to work on some concerns that they had surrounding the elk calving area that is found in that area – it will just need to take more hands than his own to make it a reality.
“If Swan Valley West worked with some of the other municipalities we could develop the Thunder Hill Recreation Area,” he said.
While Minish and the rest of the VM are currently working at rebranding themselves, their goals are set high for what they will accomplish with an organized front.
“Those are just some of the things I would like to use VM as a platform to try and work towards,” he said. “There’s some ambitious goals in there and there’s some lesser ones but we want to see steady ongoing improvement in recreation and tourism because they go hand in hand.”
Always looking for new members to help with the workload, VM is extending the invitation to all able bodies willing to shoulder some of the responsibilities to join them in their efforts to make the Valley a truly great place to live.

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Jakki Lumax
REPORTER
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