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Pandemic prompts cancellation of Wilderness Walk Run

Organizers cancelled the Willow Creek Wilderness Walk Run due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizers of a popular Fort Macleod community event decided last month to cancel it for 2020.

The Willow Creek Wilderness Walk Run was cancelled due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

“It is disappointing but everyone recognizes the necessity of cancelling in the interest of public safety right now,” founder Stasha Donahue said Friday. “Public health measures must be observed and adhered to for the sake of everyone. The event is in May, but I anticipate there will still be some restrictions in place.”

Founded in 2013, the event focused on fun and participation, providing five- and 10-kilometre routes as well as a 2.7-kilometre route for children six years of age and under.

Proceeds from the Wilderness Walk Run are donated to community groups. Past recipients include the Santa Claus Parade, M.A.E. Belles, Allied Arts, Empress Theatre Society, Fort Macleod Playground Committee and the Fort Macleod Community Initiatives Group.

Last year the committee bought learn-to-skate aids for the Fort Macleod and District Sports Centre.

The province has restricted gatherings to no more than 15 people in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.

When it became apparent the restrictions in the size of gatherings could be in place when the Wilderness Walk Run was to take place, committee member Brendan Grant stopped accepting registrations.

Refunds have been provided to people who had already registered.

There was discussion about postponing the Wilderness Walk Run until summer, rather than outright cancelling the event, but that wasn’t practical.

New this year was a challenge among schools to get more young people involved. School has been suspended, and students would not be in class this summer.

So organizers decided to put the brakes on the event for this year and return in 2021.

“It should be a lot easier next year as we have some of the groundwork done,” Donahue said. “ We thought through how to organize the school challenge piece. We have the T-shirt design.  Those are a few things that will be ready to go for next year.”

Donahue will stick to her plan to retire as race director this year after eight years in the position.

“I think it is time to get some new people involved at the helm,” Donahue said. “I have really learned a lot from conceptualizing and organizing this annual event.”

“One of the key objectives was to build community through the event. I think we have been successful on that front. We have donated funds to groups but also brought together folks who perhaps did not have connections with other individuals or groups before.”

“Community connections may seem like a small thing, but they are actually quite essential. I think this point is hitting home for many given the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Donahue expressed her appreciation to the other race coordinators, sponsors, business supporters, volunteers, MD of Willow Creek, Town of Fort Macleod and the participants.

“It has been a pleasure to work with everyone,” she said.