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Chiefs propose extension of Pither’s Point lease

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Chiefs of four local First Nations are proposing an extension of the 99-year lease of Pither’s Point Park at “fair market value,” not the current rate of $35 per annum.

But with the mayor and several councillors out of town at present for a conference in Toronto, the chiefs will have to wait until at least next week before they get any response.

“We recognize that the Pither’s Point Park affords both the First Nations and residents of Fort Frances the opportunity to partake in many family and recreational activities,” Couchiching Chief Chuck McPherson, Naicatchewenin Chief Wayne Smith, Nicickousemenecaning Chief Gary Allen, and Stanjikoming Chief Janice Henderson wrote in an open letter to Fort Frances Mayor Roy Avis and town council, which also appeared in Friday’s Daily Bulletin as well as on page A3 of today’s Times.

“The cessation of the lease as a park would serve no practical purpose at this time,” they noted. “The town’s stewardship of our lands as a park over the last 99 years has been, from our perspective, commendable.

“There are polarized views as to the status of the property,” the chiefs added. “Unfortunately, litigation has pre-empted the determination of a viable utilization of the lands in question in terms of an economic, cultural, and/or recreational perspective.

“If the litigation questions are not resolved during the period of the initial lease extension, then we would be prepared to continue with annualized arrangements until such issues are resolved to the satisfaction of all parties,” the letter continued.

“In the spirit of friendship, we thank you for your time and await your response.”

Mayor Avis, who is in Toronto for the annual Ontario Good Roads Association-Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference along with Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig and Couns. Paul Ryan and Rick Wiedenhoeft, was contacted Monday for comment.

While the mayor said he had heard about the letter, he personally has not seen it yet and declined to comment until it could be reviewed by council.

He added the item will be discussed next Monday, at which time councillors already were scheduled to meet for a committee of the whole budget meeting.

After this time, the town will release a statement or the mayor himself would write a letter in response, Mayor Avis said.

Mayor Avis also said Monday he and the other local delegates at the conference were scheduled to meet with Aboriginal Affairs minister Brad Duguid regarding the upcoming expiration of the Pither’s Point Park lease, and that discussion also should take place prior to any comment.

The 99-year lease on the property has been in effect since May 1, 1910 and will expire on May 1 if no new extension is agreed upon.

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