KILLARNEY—Wikwemikong Tourism was joined by various partners and support organizations last Wednesday in Killarney to celebrate the official opening of the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve’s Point Grondine Park.
After an opening song from Harvey Bell, Wikwemikong Chief Duke Peltier gave the opening remarks.
“Thank you for coming to celebrate with us today,” said Chief Peltier. “This park will be a wonderful addition to our tourism offerings here on our territory. This will be our flagship offering, complementing our Rainbow Ridge Golf Course on Manitoulin. On behalf of council I am pleased to offer our congratulations. This park has been a number of years in development, with work starting five years ago, and it is still a work in progress. We are now ready to welcome the public to enjoy our trails and the park. Please join me in giving a round of applause for the Wikwemikong Tourism Department (WTD) for their hard work. I would also like to offer many thanks to Ontario Parks for the training opportunities they provided for our park wardens.”
“Miigwetch to our special guests who have joined us today,” said Wikwemikong Tourism Manager Luke Wassegijig. “Like Chief Peltier said, today has been a long time coming.”
Mr. Wassegijig explained that in 2007 the Wikwemikong Department of Lands and Resources began this project at Point Grondine to capitalize on the overflow from Killarney Provincial Park.
“In 2010 we looked at a plan and created a partnership with Georgian Bay Coast Trail,” continued Mr. Wassegijig. “We have been working hard these last five years, learning how to build trails and training staff. We now have a quality product and our trail staff are now at the point where they are training other First Nations across the province.”
“We are here today to celebrate the opening of the park and 21 km of back country trails, including Merv’s Landing, a five kilometer loop, and the 15 km Wemtagoosh Falls Loop, as part of the Georgian Bay Coastal Trail,” added Mr. Wassegijig.
Chief Peltier and Mr. Wassegijig presented a paddle to the mother and sister of the late Merv Pitawanakwat, Rosa and Jean Pitawanakwat. Merv was a dedicated worker on the trail that is named in his memory.
They also presented a gift to Colleen Wassegijig-Migwans, manager of Wii-ni n’guch-tood (the Wikwemikong Development Commission) for the organization’s support.
Killarney Provincial Park Superintendent Jeremy Pawson presented a gift to Mr. Wassegijig and the Point Grondine staff, congratulating them on their hard work.
“We have seen first-hand how hard you have worked for this day,” said Mr. Pawson. “It has been a pleasure to work with you.”
“Merv’s Landing begins at the trail head of the Point Grondine Park and is a singe tract, naturally surfaced trail that flows through hardwood and pine stands, crosses beaver dams via a handcrafted pine bridge to Recollet’s Summit,” said Mr. Wassegijig.
“For the more adventurous outdoor enthusiast, the Wemtagoosh Falls Loop is a self-guided hike that will take you into the interior of Point Grondine Park for an overnight adventure along the Georgian Bay Coastal Trail. The trail begins at the park trailhead at Merv’s Landing and has a water crossing at the Mahzenazing Lake via a self-propelled raft called the ‘water spyder.”
Guests in attendance were invited to join the park wardens on hikes, including a hike to see the water spyder and Recollet’s Summit.
Also open is the Kaa-Gaa-Genhs Water Trail from the French River to Collins Inlet.
“The self-guided canoeing/kayaking water trail will start at the French River Park at Hartley’s Bay and travel to the southern coast of Point Grondine to Collins Inlet,” said Mr. Wassegijig. “There will be campsites available along the route.”
“Next year we plan to open up more canoes routes within the park, which will connect to eight of the interior lakes,” concluded Mr. Wassegijig. “This is a multi-phase development project, with the larger goal being the opening of an eco-resort a few years down the road.”
Merv’s Landing, Wemtagoosh Falls and the Kaa-Gaa-Genhs Water Trail are open until Thanksgiving weekend with permits available at www.grondinepark.com or by calling 705-859-3477.