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Friends of Chippewa Park call for repairs to City Road

The Friends of Chippewa Park say it's time for the City of Thunder Bay to address the "deplorable condition" of the roadway.
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The Friends of Chippewa Park group says the road leading to the park is due for reconstruction. (File photo)

THUNDER BAY — Thunder Bay’s city council will consider a request to pave the deteriorating section of City Road leading to Chippewa Park next week, an ask that could raise larger, thorny questions about the park’s future.

The Friends of Chippewa Park will make the request of council on Monday, presenting a petition bearing about 1,400 signatures.

Specifically, the non-profit group is asking the city to resurface the portion of City Road from the turnoff to the park, near the old Abitibi Mission mill, to the park itself — a stretch just over two kilometres long.

Iain Angus, the group’s secretary, said the pothole-filled road is in “deplorable condition,” adding it’s become so bad it’s driving users away from the park.

“We have examples of tourist RVs depositing all of their china on the floor of the RV as they drove into the park,” he said. “We lost our Tuesday night jam session this year because neither the entertainers nor the audience would come to Chippewa because of the condition of the road.

“So, it's having a negative impact on the park, and it's been many years, if not many decades, since the last major repair was done. We think it’s time.”

The city did not respond to a request for comment on this story by deadline.

The request could raise thorny questions over the ownership and future of the lands on which it, and Chippewa Park, sit.

The city’s continued investment in Chippewa Park proved divisive during the last term of council, with some members arguing the city should divest itself of the park.

Leaders expressed concerns over unresolved claims to the land by Fort William First Nation, with one councillor going so far as to say the park sits on stolen land.

The park sits on city land, in the Westfort ward represented by Coun. Kristen Oliver.

However, Fort William First Nation leaders have previously argued those lands should be returned to their community, since they were part of 1,600 acres of reserve land wrongly expropriated by the federal government in 1905 to make way for a railway terminus.

The First Nation settled with the feds for over 1,100 acres of that land in 2016, not including the park.

Angus says the Friends group believes the park is a gem for area residents that should be maintained, regardless of that dispute.

“The whole issue of ownership is very complicated, and we've delved into it in quite a bit of detail and we understand how the different parcels came to be owned by the then-City of Fort William,” he said.

“It's a long process that's tied up with all sorts of other negotiations with the First Nation, all legitimate concerns. Our position is we really don't care who owns the land — we just want it to continue as a public park.”

Some councillors have also pointed to perceived declining public interest in the park, saying the city should focus investments in more popular recreation areas.

Angus disputes that, saying the park continues to draw thousands for major events, and said he’s seen rebounding tourist interest in camping at the park.

The Friends group will also provide an overview of its operations, including ongoing fundraising efforts toward a building to house the restored carousel at the park, to city council on Monday. The group has not presented to council since the 2022 election that saw five newcomers elected.

Ian Kaufman

About the Author: Ian Kaufman

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