By Rick Garrick
BIIGTIGONG NISHNAABEG — Biigtigong Nishnaabeg is looking forward to building an outdoor arena for recreational, cultural and commercial purposes with $499,999 in FedNor design and construction funding. The funding was part of investments of more than $4.5 million by FedNor through the Canadian Community Revitalization Fund (CRCF) to improve public community spaces in Northern Ontario, announced by the Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Superior North Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister Responsible for FedNor, July 22.
“Our [citizens] long awaited an upgrade from the old plywood boards and rough ice, so we took it to the next level and designed an NHL-sized rink with locker rooms and a Zamboni room,” says Daniel Michano, Manager housing in the capital. director of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg. “Of course it is topped with a [roof] so we can extend the shoulder seasons and have ice hopefully earlier in the season, in November, and later in the spring.
Michano says a hot day in March tends to end the skating season at the current rink.
“It’s really about capturing those early times and hopefully keeping that ice a bit later in the year,” says Michano. “Here in the North, hockey is huge – with the growth of the sport, you need so much ice time. Even in our local community in Marathon, ice time is limited, which just gives us another option for the kids to hang out and [shoot] the puck as they please.
Michano says they will also be able to use the arena in the summer for recreational activities, flea markets, garage sales, festivals, powwows and other events.
“We can have a portable basketball where kids can [shoot] around and community day camps,” says Michano.
Michano says they plan to close the bidding process by the fall and begin construction early next spring.
“Hopefully by next fall, we hope to have our inaugural skate,” Michano said.
Michipicoten and Pays Plat also receive FedNor funding for projects in their communities, with Michipicoten receiving $499,404 to develop the Michipicoten Commons, an outdoor market and public plaza, and Pays Plat receiving $263,237 to develop and improve its Medicine Trail.
“Recreation is a big part of what I hear about when I travel to all First Nations. People want things to do, but they also want to be able to attract tourism to the area and showcase the beautiful region of northwestern Ontario,” said Minister Hajdu. said. “Thus, for example in Pays Plat, their investment of $263,237 will go towards the development of the Sentier de la Médecine. They have already started working on this, but it will help to create boardwalks, platforms and signage in English and (anishinaabemowin) and a parking area at the trailhead.
Minister Hajdu says Michipicoten is using their investment to create an outdoor market and public plaza, which will be located on First Nations lands adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway. 17 near Wawa, with water and electricity infrastructure, vendor stalls, public spaces and a parking area.
“They hope it will serve as a community and commercial center which will be located close to the highway and will attract visitors and guests,” said Minister Hajdu. “[It] will allow the establishment of vendors and markets.
The CCRF is designed to help communities across the country build and improve community infrastructure projects so they can recover from the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The investment of more than $4.5 million announced today directly supports vibrant public spaces in Northern Ontario and helps local economies in our region thrive and grow,” said Minister Hajdu.