Manitoba

'Slim' chance First Nations group can expedite widening of Kenaston near Kapyong Barracks

A First Nations chief involved in the group taking over the Kapyong Barracks is begrudgingly setting aside his top priority.

Chief learns he'll likely be unable to fast-track Route 90 reconstruction along abandoned military base

Kapyong Barracks, the former military base on Kenaston Boulevard, has been vacant since 2004. (CBC)

A First Nations chief involved in the group taking over the Kapyong Barracks is begrudgingly setting aside his top priority.  

Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches said the city cannot widen Kenaston Boulevard as fast as the new ownership group would like.

"Really, it was an eye-opener, because I didn't really understand how complicated it would be for the city and their budgetary process," Meeches said after meeting with city officials last month.

"That's a little bit of concern for the Treaty 1 bands because their timelines are quite lengthy in terms of setting aside dollars to upgrade Kenaston."

The city, which settled on a general plan for the Route 90 widening in 2012, has maintained that rebuilding the highway would take years.

The Kapyong land is located between the affluent Tuxedo and River Heights neighbourhoods. (CBC)

Brad Neirinck, engineering manager for the city's public works department, told CBC News last year that construction is unlikely to begin before 2021, citing the years-old legal dispute over the barracks and a lack of government funding.

The legal troubles recently ended, paving the way for seven Treaty 1 First Nations, including Long Plain, to sign an agreement in principle last month to acquire the property from the federal government. They plan to create an urban reserve and develop the First Nations portion of the land, coveted real estate nestled between two affluent residential areas.

'Hopefully there's a chance'

Meeches still wants to expedite at least part of the highway reconstruction, near the barracks. The stretch is a part of the high-traffic Route 90, which is much wider with faster speed limits south of Kapyong.

"Hopefully there's a chance, but a slim one, that they might be able to fast-track it."

The city wants to eventually widen the entire corridor between Taylor Avenue in Tuxedo and Ness Avenue in St. James. A study is slated to be completed next spring.

Meeches doubts any delay on Route 90 improvements would slow down the First Nations' construction plans.

The dismantling of the abandoned military base will begin on June 4 with the demolition of 13 buildings, the Department of National Defence said in a news release.

The work is scheduled to take place weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. It is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Drivers should be aware of increased traffic around the property as materials are taken away, the military said.

The department started tearing down former military homes on Kenaston, next to the barracks, last year.

Kapyong was mostly abandoned in 2004, when the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry moved from the military base nestled between the affluent Tuxedo and River Heights neighbourhoods to the Canadian Forces Base in Shilo, Man.

Development of the barracks site was held up by a court case between the federal government, which planned to sell the land, and First Nations who said they had treaty rights to the land.

Take a look inside Kapyong, as seen in 2012:

CBC's Sean Kavanagh goes on an exclusive tour of a former military site that now has some of the most valuable and unused land in Winnipeg. 2:12

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.