First Nations park land transfer extended

By Jayne Foster

North Battleford city council has agreed to extend a land transfer agreement with Battle River Nations Trade and Tourism Association by an extra year to July 2015.

The transfer is to facilitate the creation of an $8 million First Nations heritage park. The location is to be north and east of Highway 16, near the Gold Eagle Casino and the CUplex.

In a letter to council, Chief Wayne Semaganis, on behalf of the Battle River Nations Trade and Tourism Association, said the association needs another year to complete fundraising initiatives underway with the provincial and federal governments and with potential private sector major sponsorship for Arrowhead Heritage Park. He said the association wants to make sure the entire amount needed to establish the park is securely in place before construction commences.

"The delays in finalizing our fundraising efforts were essentially centred on the uncertainties surrounding the expansion of the Gold Eagle Casino and other business and commercial development we have planned for the properties adjacent to the park property – these developments are essential for the ongoing future viability of the park. They will be needed to both contribute to the future park operating costs and to provide the tourism infrastructure and amenities required to serve the large volume of visitors the park will attract," stated Semaganis's letter.

The issues related to the expansion of the casino and the hotel have now been resolved, he said.

Before final transfer, the agreement states, the City requires the association to have the site professionally engineered to ensure there will continue to be adequate drainage. Semaganis said the association has engaged AEOM Canada Ltd. to prepare an engineering drainage and design study that would see the coulee in the area developed as an aquatic attraction without interrupting the drainage. The study is to be completed this summer.

City Manager Jim Puffalt described the development agreement in a memo to council as a positive document that in exchange for the City providing the land would see extensive development of the land adjacent to Highway 16 as well as potential expansions to the Gold Eagle Casino and hotel at no cost to the City.

He recommended the extension be granted.

The two lots to be transferred are worth $820,000 and $380,000. If the association doesn't meet its commitments after the transfer takes place, the land will revert to the City.

The agreement calls for the property taxes to be paid to the City on the land and improvements to the park unless the land becomes a First Nations urban or other reserve at any time. In that case, whatever First Nation applies for the reserve status will be required to enter into an urban reserve services agreement with the City.

The agreement dates from November of 2012.

A second recommendation arose from the city manager's review of the agreement, new to him since he began working for the city at the end of January. He recommended the city consider a request for proposals for consultants to assist the City in creating an economic development plan in a community roundtable whereby interested groups are invited to contribute their ideas and input.

"As I read through the proposal for an extension … it seems there's a gap in how we operate and this is a good opportunity to discuss that in more detail with council.

Puffalt said he would bring a report back to council that will outline it in more detail.