Lana Bakun and Kevin Sherby were looking to help Manitobans stay active during the winter months, as indoor gyms, pools, and all other indoor recreation facilities were forced to close as a result of the pandemic.
The pair looked at the existing trails on frozen rivers where the Assiniboine and Red meet at The Forks and thought about how much fun it would be if people could snowshoe on freshly powdered snow and bike safely on the frozen river.
With their common passion for community connection and love for the outdoors, they opened their new business to make that fun possible. On Jan 31, Bakun and Sherby launched Kendrick’s Outdoor Adventures, an outdoor snowshoe and fat-bike rental business at The Forks Market in Winnipeg.
“Based on seeing how busy that river can get, it became something to offer the community, something new and something to do to get outside safely,” said Bakun, who also holds a commerce degree and has worked in the retail sector.
The pair is an example of how Manitobans are devising new ways to exercise and move outdoors. This type of creative improvisation is what health experts and outdoor advocates say should be encouraged in the community. Their business is just one effort as groups push to increase the number of outdoor trails at a time when statistics have shown that Manitobans are streaming to the outdoors to stay healthy when indoor exercising has been prohibited.
Kendrick’s Outdoor Adventures’ website guides customers to explore trails within the city even as far as Birds Hill Park just 25 minutes east of Winnipeg or Assiniboine Forest in Charleswood, just over 11 kilometres from The Forks Market.
These suggested trails and parks encourage people to explore parts of the province that they hadn’t been to before, offering a unique experience that customers seem to enjoy.
“People come back from their adventure and they tell us where they went and what they saw,” Bakun said. “You know, it’s seeing people happy, people getting outside, people getting active. Everyone’s tired of being inside.”
Kendricks Outdoor Adventures has a high number of bikes and snowshoes available to rent, making it possible for people to go out in larger groups.
Sherby said the company is also trying to make the service work for as many people as possible, by allowing rentals in a wide range of time slots.
“We wanted to accommodate shift workers, people working the front lines, kids, and families during the week and on the weekends,” Sherby said.
More Manitobans are venturing outdoors during the pandemic
By providing the opportunity to choose from a variety of outdoor sporting equipment, this new type of exercise-focused rental company is a positive new option that allows people to explore different types of movement, says one exercise expert.
“Having these [businesses], it’s a huge benefit for people. It’s not just walking, it’s ‘I can do more’,” says Dean Kriellaars, an associate professor from the College of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Manitoba.
Throughout the pandemic, Kriellaars says he has observed increased participation in outdoor spaces.
“During COVID, we’ve seen an unprecedented number of people going to parks. We clearly observed newcomers so much so that we measured a 300-per cent increase in participants,” Kriellaars said.
New outdoor trails to be groomed in the coming weeks
Local advocates like Anders Swanson, executive director of the Winnipeg Trails Association, have been pushing for the development and grooming of more trails for Manitobans to participate in different outdoor activities.
“In the summer, we started working on a plan to mitigate pandemic-related mobility restrictions going into the winter,” Swanson said.
“We started thinking about what we could do as an organization. We pitched an idea to essentially expand the number of available cross– country ski trails, walking trails, and skating trails.”
Swanson says that the city will be seeing an increase in new trails in the coming weeks. The approach to increase the variety of trails is intended not only for exercise but to contribute to improving the overall well-being of individuals.
“In the end, the person and what we hope they see out of this is a chance to have some fun,” Swanson said. “You know, that’s really important for mental health.”
Bakun is grateful for the community’s love for outdoor winter activities since the launch of Kendrick’s Outdoor Adventures.
“People keep on coming back, they have so much fun out on the river trail,” Bakun said.
“Just for us to offer that, then to see they’re happy with it, that they’re excited to do it, it makes us feel really good.”