Elliot Lake partners with 3 First Nations to run provincial park
Park declared non-operating during provincial budget cuts in 2014
Three northern Ontario First Nations are partnering with a neighbouring city to operate a provincial park.
The Mississagi Provincial Park Commission is being formed by Sagamok, Serpent River and Mississauga First Nations, as well as the City of Elliot Lake.
The city has operated the 49 square kilometre park since 2014 when it was declared non-operating after provincial budget cuts.
Elliot Lake Mayor Dan Marchisella says this partnership is a good example of cooperation between neighbouring communities, without the involvement of the provincial or federal governments.
"They have to allow for municipalities to be able to come to the table and speak freely with their neighbouring communities," he says.
The commission is expected to take over operation of the park in 2019.
It has lost money every year since the city took the reins, including being $41,000 in the red after the 2017 camping season.
'An important place to start'
Mississauga First Nation Chief Reg Niganobe says goal is to turn the park into as a year-round tourist attraction, as well as a site for traditional First Nations gatherings.
He says it's natural for First Nations to begin with parks when reasserting their claim to their traditional territory.
"It's an important place to start because it ties not only to our connection to the land, but to our former travel routes and places that we frequented quite often. And it's keeping that connection and maintaining that history for our peoples," Niganobe says.
He also hopes this model of municipalities and First Nations working together is applied to other areas, such as health care and education.
"Because you already have a shared interest in the area that you're usually talking about, because you're both affected by it, right, directly. Somebody who comes in, from whether it be federal or provincial, they might not have an understanding of the area and sometimes suggest ideas that aren't relatable to what you're trying to accomplish."