Garden River First Nation has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the resurfacing of the portions of Highway 17 and Highway 17B that run through its territory.
Community members joined project stakeholders for a signing ceremony at the Garden River Community Centre Thursday.
The highway resurfacing project will see a number of the First Nation’s community members receive training and jobs as a result of a unique partnership between Garden River First Nation, Miller Paving Limited and Shwe Miikaan Corp., a construction company that’s owned jointly by Shawanaga, Magnetawan and Henvey Inlet First Nations.
“Part of this day was to develop that relationship, that MOU, so that we can combine our resources together, we can combine the capacity together to focus on these big projects over the next couple of years,” said Garden River First Nation Chief Andy Rickard.
Garden River’s recently elected chief says the two-year resurfacing project could potentially lead to new employment opportunities for his membership due to the new partnership that has been formed with project stakeholders.
“We’re going to need the capacity from our community members to be a part of that, so there’s training opportunities with our partners, because they do have a number of relationships with some post-secondary institutions to develop training, skills, education for a lot of these positions that we’re going to need over the next couple years,” Rickard said.
Garden River has another resource going for it besides its manpower, Rickard told SooToday - it also has a vast aggregate supply that’s ideal for building and maintaining paved roads.
“We have all kinds of aggregates. We’re going to capitalize, in terms of that resource, to help build and re-pave these two projects,” Rickard said.
Garden River First Nation already carries out the year-round maintenance of the stretches of Highway 17 and Highway 17B that run through its land - its public works department maintains Highway 17 from Sault city limits all the way to the St. Joseph Island turn-off - but Rickard says Garden River leadership is looking to expand on that work, which was offloaded to the First Nation by the Ministry of Transportation.
“We’re negotiating with the province to unload a little bit more of those opportunities, which means we need to build the capacity within our public works - bring on more people, bring on more equipment,” he said.
Rickard didn’t disclose the price tag of the provincially-funded resurfacing project to SooToday, but says it’s "significant."
The first phase of the project will see highway resurfacing work begin on Highway 17B in Garden River First Nation as early as the spring of next year.