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Tucked away in St. Vital, there’s a little known 40 acre stretch of greenspace that is connecting people not only to nature, but to a rich history.
Yude Henteleff grew up on the property, where his family farmed the land for generations.
“When my grandfather bought this land in 1921, he bought it for a tax sale for $126 and paid it off at $2 a month,” Henteleff said.
His family was the only Jewish market gardener in the area, which is a source of pride because of their past, immigrating to Canada from Ukraine.
“It was very, very difficult for two reasons,” Henteleff said.
“They spoke no English and because Jews were not permitted to own land in their old country, purely anti-semetic manifestation, they had no experience in farming and so every day had to be a learning day.”
The Henteleff family’s story is shared in an interpretive centre created in the park.
Several panels placed near the entrance of Henteleff Park highlight significance of the land.
Pictures and archived documents incorporated in all-weather books focus on the people who lived in the area: the Metis, Indigenous people and pioneers. Visitors can read about the uniqueness of the land itself, situated right along the Red River and the hardships and harvests of that time in history.
“This is such rich history which such few people know very much about,” Henteleff said.
“We are very much hoping that by introducing it this way, in this surrounding, complemented by what we have on the website, people will make a point of learning more about this very important part of our history.”
Creating this park didn’t come easily. In the 1980’s the city expropriated the land from Henteleff’s father to create a greenbelt.
Years later, when plans changed, Henteleff and many other volunteers stepped in and convinced the city to preserve the land. After several years of fundraising, The Henteleff Park Foundation was able to make the space accessible and educational.
“We’ve planted several thousand trees and shrubs, we’ve created nearly four kilometers of trails and we have benches scattered throughout,” Henteleff said.
At 90-years-old, he’s thrilled to see what the work of so many volunteers, including himself, was able to achieve for future generations to enjoy.
“This is a magical place,” Henteleff said.
“It does magic to the people who come here and enjoy it, and you have to preserve it.”
Find out more about the Henteleff Park Foundation.