When Burns Lake resident Cornelius Bergen passed away in February 2016 at the age of 96, he left several thousand dollars in his will to upgrade a local park.
“My husband liked Burns Lake so much, and he wanted to give back,” said his wife Anne. “His heart was always in Burns Lake.”
Cornelius and Anne donated the 15 acres of park and wilderness area called Bergen Park, which connects with the Evaneshen Trail, to the provincial government in the 1970s. The donation had one condition – that the land be strictly used as a park.
The Bergen Park can be accessed from the top of Ninth Avenue, across the street from the Rod Reid Trail’s entrance.
“It’s a treasure in the middle of town where a person can go and observe nature and relax,” said daughter Beverly Olinyk. “It’s like you’re in the middle of nowhere… it’s beautiful.”
The recent upgrades, which were completed by local contractor Clarke Kumpulla, include steps on the steep inclines, a viewing platform and bench over the top of a rock cave, as well as a new sign and bench at the top of the trail. Olinyk encourages everyone to check out the park and the new upgrades.
According to Olinyk, what motivated her father to donate the 15 acres of land and invest in the recent upgrades was that the area used to be popular among children.
“The kids used to enjoy the area so much that he thought it would make a good park,” said Olinyk. “We used to go out there as kids… at the very bottom there’s a rock cave, and that was our secret hiding spot; all kids seemed to know about it… we used to play there, so dad wanted that to be left for the whole community to enjoy.”
After Cornelius and Anne moved to Burns Lake from Saskatoon in 1947, Cornelius successfully established a construction business.
“He didn’t have anything when he moved here,” said Olinyk.
The intention of the family is now to transfer ownership of the park to the Village of Burns Lake. They hope the park will help keep the memory of Cornelius alive.