The Ashcroft Indian Band is moving ahead with plans for a new playground and sports box, thanks to a recent $398,645 grant from the Province’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program.
Both facilities will be installed near the site of the new campground currently being built beside the softball diamonds, and Band Administrator Jodene Blain says she’s really excited about the project.
“Playground money is hard to find, so I’m beyond thrilled about this. We’re hoping to start construction on the playground soon. It’s going to be First Nations-themed, with pieces of equipment for children up to the age of 12. It’ll be things they can climb and jump on, and we hope to be able to afford a rubber surface, which would mean no more scraped knees.”
The sports box will be a paved area with boards around it that can be used for a variety of activities, including basketball, tennis, pickleball, and ball hockey.
“It’s a multi-use facility, and we have some money for equipment, like basketballs and floor hockey sticks,” says Blain. “It will be able to serve as a whole lot of different things.”
She adds that both sites will be there for people using the ball diamonds and the campground. The Band has received funding for a second phase for the latter, which will feature at least 20 pull-through sites, each with electricity and water, and at least four tenting sites. There is no sani-dump, but a new washroom, family change room, and shower facility with concession space has been constructed nearby, for use by people attending events at the site or using the campground.
Blain says there will be trees planted at the campground, and the Band has funding for more trees along the trails that encircle the ball diamonds.
“The more trees, the better,” she says. “We’re trying to put in shade, and we’re trying to encourage people to use the trails. There are a lot of benches close together for people to rest on, and we want to start a fitness program with walking groups, as well as do some videos and show what activities you can do on trails besides walking.”
Blain also hopes to tie the trail in with trails from the Village of Ashcroft as part of the latter’s Walking Trails Master Plan. “We’re hoping to get funding to connect the walking trail to Ashcroft, to connect the communities, so we’re really crossing our fingers about that.”
Also on the wish list is an electric vehicle fast charging station to go in at the Tim Hortons parking lot, and Blain says they are pursuing funding for that project. In the meantime, she says that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) has told them that a dedicated left turn lane onto Cornwall Road from Highway 1 southbound is finally coming.
“There are huge safety concerns [at the intersection], and there have been years of negotiations with MOTI. We were prioritized, because they know about what they call the ‘Timmies factor’: people aren’t paying attention because they’re looking for the turn-off to the Timmies. It’s well known to MOTI when a Timmies goes in, but it kind of fell off the radar. Now we’re back on the top of the list. It’s not flashy, but we’re excited.”
She adds that in addition to Highway 1 being widened to accommodate the left turn lane, Cornwall Road will also be fixed: “It’s taken a beating with all the trucks turning.”
In late spring/early summer TELUS, through Mascon, will be providing internet for all the homes on the reserve. At the moment only about half get internet, and the signal is weak and unreliable, which Blain says has been difficult, especially during COVID-19 with so many people staying at home.
“We’ve worked hard on trying to do remote activities, like a cooking show and crafts and weekly Bingo, but it’s challenging for people who can’t access it. We’re excited because it opens doors for what we can offer to our members.”
The six-unit seniors’ residence which was completed last year has been used as isolation units and a hamper distribution centre during the pandemic, but Blain says that they’re hoping to start clearing it out in May and start renting the units, half of which will be furnished. “We’re going to have a video done and showcase it so people can have a sense of what it looks like.”
The units are for single people or couples aged 65 and older, and Blain says they will be available to anyone living in the area, not just Band members.
The Band will also be using grant funding from Indigenous Services Canada to start a new recycling/transfer station program on the reserve. It will be located in a trailer that can travel around the reserve and collect recycling, which will be sorted in the trailer and then taken to the transfer station.
“That will start this spring when it gets warmer. We’ve wanted to bring recycling here for so long, and I love the idea of going around and collecting it and doing the sorting for people. It will bring employment opportunities as well.”
Blain says she’s pleased about bringing different programs to the Band.
“It’s important for us to shed light on the positivity that’s going on here, continuing with all the work, and focusing on all the cool projects we have coming up. It’s been a tough year for everyone, and it’s going to be a fun spring and summer. We’ve been able to think outside the box and be creative, and it’s exciting for the community.”