Willow Bunch is situated within rolling grasslands and coulees joining to the spectacular Big Muddy Valley – a scenic area for hikers, bird watchers and photography buffs. Jean-Louis Légaré Regional Park in Willow Bunch is well-known in southern Saskatchewan for its nine-hole golf course. However, not enough people in Canada and the world are aware of the wonderful sights Jean-Louis Légaré Park can offer in the town 42.2 kilometres southeast of Assiniboia along Highway 13.
Willow Bunch has a great pub and restaurant – the Jolly Giant Pub and Motel – with cold lagers and huge burgers, along with a museum dedicated to the life of Édouard J. Beaupré, the world-famous Willow Bunch Giant.
Soon, Willow Bunch will become an enhanced tourist destination in South Central Saskatchewan with the expansion of Jean-Louis Légaré Regional Park. The mine in Coronach is set to close by 2030, so this development will bolster this region’s tourist industry, creating additional opportunities for investors, small businesses, start-ups and perhaps sponsor multitudes of opportunities in the future.
The Canadian federal government has shown commitment to supporting affected businesses and employees in Willow Bunch and many RMs in southern Saskatchewan. The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification, announced $5.8 million in total funding to finance likeminded projects across the so-called Cactus Corridor of South Central and Southwest Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta – throughout the Cactus Corridor, coalmining had been essential to the economy for several years, from Drumheller to Coronach.
In the era of COVID and general economic disparities, the news of this federal investment is upbeat. The Canada Coal Transition Initiative will provide the Jean-Louis Légaré Regional Park Authority with a cash injection of $177,500, meant to assist in developing tourism assets within the district of Willow Bunch.
Wayne Joyal, the mayor of Willow Bunch, was enthused about this opportunity provided by these federal investments in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“When the Danny Gaudry family approached me in February of 2018 to discuss a land exchange with Jean-Louis Légaré Regional Park, I saw an opportunity to expand our park and make something really positive happen for our community and the South Central Region. With the support of WD (Western Economic Diversification Canada), we have secured funding to develop the plan with the residents of Willow Bunch, RM of 42 and all of the communities in our region in the near future. We need to make our community grow, create jobs and get our taxes down. This project will help us achieve these goals.”
Members of the Jean-Louis Légaré Coulee Project Plan were energized about the prospects of increasing Willow Bunch’s tourist industry.
“This project has the potential to build something really big for our entire region. This is the biggest project we have tackled since volunteers in our community came together to build grass greens at the golf course. And we all know how that turned out,” said Real Durand, Chair, Jean-Louis Légaré Coulee Project Plan Inc. “Our park and golf course are the backbone of this community and our plan will just add so much more and give people more reasons to visit our park.”
At this point, the members of the Jean-Louis Légaré Coulee Project Plan Inc. are searching for public input. When the conclusion of the engineer’s final report, the board heading the park’s expansion will have a better understanding of the necessary items they can afford to improve the park before this project moves forward.
“Water, power, sewer and roads will need to be built as the critical infrastructure required to support the park expansion. Whatever we build, we need to make sure it meets all the needs of the community and region for the next 20 years and beyond,” said Patrick Therrien, Project Manager, Louis Légaré Coulee Project Plan Inc.
The park has become an essential part of Willow Bunch ever since the Jean-Louis Légaré Regional Park Authority was created in 1961 by volunteers.
Councillor for RM of 42 Mike Cayer further noted: “The funding we receive from WD will help our volunteers put a plan together that will generate more revenue for the park, create more jobs and hopefully eliminate the need for rate payers to subsidize the park. We have the opportunity to build something that will make all these things happen.”