North

New N.W.T. campground likely to open in 2023

The first stage of the new campground at North Arm Territorial Park is done, but N.W.T. campers might have to wait until 2023 before they can book a spot on the shores of the Great Slave Lake.

North Arm Park contract is one of first awarded under new Tłı̨chǫ-N.W.T. cooperative agreement

Although Tłı̨chǫ Engineering & Environmental Services built an access road and loop to the North Arm Territorial Park's new campground this past summer and fall, it likely won't open until a gatehouse with a combined shower building is constructed. (Tłı̨chǫ Engineering & Environmental Services)

The first stage of the new campground at North Arm Territorial Park is done, but N.W.T. campers might have to wait until 2023 before they can book a spot on the shores of Great Slave Lake.

"I'm a big camper, so I'd love to see it open next summer," said Kris Johnson, regional superintendent for the North Slave region of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

"But we're probably looking at the official opening in 2023."

Although an access road and loop through the 15-site campground were completed this fall, the park likely won't open until a gatehouse with a combined shower building is constructed, she said.

The new campground on Great Slave Lake's North Arm will be located just to the northeast of the current day-use area in place, off Highway 3, near the access road to Behchokǫ̀.

"One of the things that people wanted to see was that the day-use area was kept separate so they could access it for free," said Johnson. "A lot of families spend a lot of time in that park every year."

Johnson said there are plans to put power into the 15 campsites. In the future, she said there could also be additional tent camping sites put in, as well as a kitchen shelter, a playground and nature trails.

"We definitely want to do some trails," she said. "It's pretty easy to put some trails between the existing day-use area and the new campground."

The current North Arm Territorial Park day-use area. The new campground is northeast of the day-use area and will be kept separate from it so people can continue to access the day-use area for free. (GNWT ITI)

Tłı̨chǫ Engineering & Environmental Services Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation, did earthworks and engineering on the project's first stage. 

Mark Brajer, chief executive officer of the investment corporation, said construction was delayed by early bird migration into the area. The federal Migratory Birds Convention Act prohibits any habitat clearing during the nesting season. 

"They were nesting in the park, so we had to wait," he said. 

Originally, crews had hoped to start clearing trees and brush for the access road and campsites as early as April, Brajer said.

"We ended up waiting until that migration was all done, which I think ended up being around July or even potentially early August, at that point," he said.

Crews finished up in October.

A new era of cooperation

In the summer of 2020, the N.W.T. withdrew a public tender for the park, after then-Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief George Mackenzie called public bidding for projects on his nation's lands an "insult."

Johnson said the Tłı̨chǫ Engineering & Environmental Services contract was one of the first under a new cooperation agreement between the N.W.T. and Tłı̨chǫ governments, signed in August 2020. 

Under the agreement, the territorial government committed to negotiating directly with Tłı̨chǫ businesses for infrastructure projects built on Tłı̨chǫ lands. It also committed to minimum Tłı̨chǫ labour and contracting requirements for contracts where direct negotiation is not possible.

In all, Brajer said the first phase of the park employed more than 20 Tłı̨chǫ workers. 

Johnson said the department is awaiting the final design approvals of the gatehouse and shower facilities before it can proceed with the next phase of the project.

"As soon as we get the final drawings back, then we will be approaching the Tłı̨chǫ government to work on those projects as well," she said.

Campground operations will also be contracted out to a Tłı̨chǫ business, she said.

Plans for the new 15-site campground at North Arm Territorial Park. It will be located just northeast of the current day-use area. There are plans to put power into the campsites. There could also be additional tent camping sites put in, as well as a kitchen shelter, a playground and nature trails, according to officials. (GNWT ITI)

A busy year for the Tłı̨chǫ

Last month, the 97-kilometre Tłı̨chǫ Highway opened to traffic, connecting the community of Whatì to the rest of the territory's highway grid year-round.

There are plans for a day-use area and possibly a campground at Whatì Falls, a popular local picnic spot outside of the community. 

Brajer said it has been a busy year in the Tłı̨chǫ region with so many projects on the go.

"Hopefully it'll add a little bit more on the tourism side to the overall area."

Johnson said the North Arm Territorial Park campground will be a nice complement to the opening of the new highway, giving tourists a place to stop and camp for an evening or two when they're visiting the Tłı̨chǫ region.

"Artisans can come in and sell arts and crafts or hold walking tours or rent out the kitchen shelter for events and that type of thing," she said. "We're hoping it will be an economic opportunity for the Tłı̨chǫ and the community of Behchokǫ̀."

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