In 2020, Wright County Parks & Recreation obtained a grant from the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks & Trails Commission (GMRPTC) to purchase outdoor recreation equipment to provide opportunities for people to connect with the outdoors. Due to the pandemic, acquiring the equipment was challenging, and the department had to prioritize what equipment to purchase first. By the time contracts were in place, it was too late to get the desired equipment for the 2021 winter season, so the focus turned to the summer of 2022 and winter of 2022/2023.
The first big purchase was for a fleet of sit-on-top kayaks. In the grant, the proposed amount was for 24 of them. Luckily, we located a vendor that could provide the needed amount in addition to five desired stand-up paddleboards, which has allowed us to fill a gap in programming. We now offer these kayaks and stand-up paddleboards as rentals at Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park, which has shown to be a popular addition to our service offerings. We have provided multiple paddling classes throughout the county spanning a range of ages from 8 years old and up. This past year we started meeting with the recreation providers to see if we could fill a gap in their programming with this equipment, and many of the paddling programs have been in partnership with these other organizations. One of the highlights of this summer was the “Women, Water, and Wine” event that we held in August. The three-hour event started with a one-hour paddle on Bertram Lake and concluded with two hours of wine tasting and charcuterie boards with Fountain Hill Winery at the Bertram Chalet. This program was open to 20 participants and had a waiting list that would allow us to double the number of participants if we had the equipment and staff to do so. We are excited to launch “Leave No Trace” and camping classes with the camping kits we are assembling as part of this grant for next year.
Once the summer equipment was purchased, our focus turned to winter equipment. We planned on purchasing cross-country skis and snowshoes to expand our winter recreation equipment rentals to Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park in addition to Robert Ney Regional Park. As stated earlier, it was too late to get equipment for the 2021/2022 winter season, so we started the process in November of 2021 to guarantee that we would have equipment ready for the 2022/2023 season. Cross Country ski equipment and snowshoes have proven difficult to acquire during this time. If you want to purchase this type of equipment, we suggest reaching out to the manufacturers and their representatives to discuss timelines and ordering. We were able to get all orders placed at the beginning of the manufacturer’s ordering season to ensure we got the equipment in time. This process started in December 2021 and January 2022. To date, we have received all our snowshoes and have been notified that our skis are in production. We have started to plan for the winter, and this equipment allows us to provide more offerings than ever at new locations throughout the system.
We are excited about this recreational growth and are grateful to the Commission for selecting our grant proposal. We will continue to expand our opportunities for people to connect to the outdoors. Moreover, we are currently working with Wright County Health and Human Services to determine ways to provide programming that would serve their foster family and youth divisions. If you have questions about our programs or what Wright County Parks and Recreation is up to, please contact Brad Harrington at firstname.lastname@example.org.