New Germany is a small village located in rural Nova Scotia, and serves as the “hub” for about 30 surrounding rural communities. It has a grocery store, a liquor store, a small hardware store, a pharmacy, and a couple of pizza places.
Until recently, New Germany also had very few recreational opportunities for its locals and residents from nearby communities. But in 2023, that all changed, thanks to funding from the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association’s Reaching Each and Every One: A Community Sport Intervention program. This program, which was funded by Sport Canada’s Community Sport for All Initiative, sought to remove barriers and increase sport participation rates for equity deserving groups across Canada.
“It was kind of like a forgotten area,” describes Kim Whitman-Mansfield, youth director at the YMCA of Southwest Nova Scotia located in Bridgewater. At 26km away, Bridgewater is the closest major sports facility to New Germany.
Because of the funding, Whitman-Mansfield says the YMCA of Southwest Nova Scotia was able to bring sports and recreational opportunities, to the village and four satellite communities through the New Germany Multi-Sport Program.
“Our focus was youth. The youth are the most marginalized in those communities because there’s no access to public transportation,” Whitman-Mansfield says, adding that the YMCA held recreation consultations with these communities and saw additional needs. “We recognized pretty quickly that it was more than just youth who were facing barriers.”
She says residents in these communities face barriers to recreation because of their distance, but also their lack of local resources.
“North River, which is one of the communities we’re working with, has an outdoor rink they use in the winter. But there’s absolutely nothing else for recreation,” Whitman-Mansfield says.
In this community, she says the New Germany Multi-Sport Program allowed them to install basketball nets around that rink space, as well as purchase sports equipment the community can use year-round – such as street hockey gear, portable nets for pickleball, soccer balls, footballs, and frisbees.
The funding has also allowed the YMCA to hire community champions to facilitate free sports programming within the communities – eliminating transportation and cost barriers.
Deanne Oickle-Conrad, the community champion for New Germany, is a certified fitness instructor and has led boot camp-style activities for older residents at the town’s River Ridge Common park as part of the program.
In addition to using the park’s natural resources for the boot camp – like its graded hill – the funding has also helped purchase the equipment needed for the activity.
“This program is meeting a need for fitness classes in the area,” she says. “All the participants are my age or older, which I’m super thrilled about. Just because you’re older, doesn’t mean you can’t try something new or work really hard at a class to your capacity.”
Oickle-Conrad adds that the class has helped people socialize and get to know one another.
“It just builds connections. There’s even a gal coming from Bridgewater to take the class. People are networking, and I think that’s really important,” she says.
Samantha Green, the YMCA’s centre manager, says she has family in these rural communities and knows first-hand how much the towns need activities and recreation.
“I would be so thrilled to see this program continue, and see it grow to where community champions are getting other community champions involved with other activities – whether it’s snowshoeing, or keeping fitness classes going, and building that community up as much as possible,” Green says.
Whitman-Mansfield says without the funding, it would have been “very hard” to implement the New Germany Multi-Sport Program.
She adds that the program serves as a wonderful starting point for communities to prioritize sport and recreational opportunities for residents, and maybe help them receive more funding for new programs in the future.
“We’re building these champions, and we’re getting the sports equipment that’s needed to run the programs in the satellite communities,” she says. “We’re helping them build that capacity for more sports and recreation activities to sustain for years to come.”