After three years of careful planning, construction, and donated time, the Fort Frances Lions Club officially opened the Millennium Park on Second Street East here Saturday afternoon.
Speakers like Lion Luke Schill, NDP leader Howard Hampton, Indian and Northern Affairs minister Robert Nault, and Mayor Glenn Witherspoon welcomed the crowd on hand, remembering the long process it took to get there.
“This is not just a park,” Mayor Witherspoon said. “This is a great park. I hope it’s well used.”
The park includes a playground, already bustling with children at the ceremony, as well as a large fountain and shelter. “Memory lane blocks” (bricks commemorating donations to the park) were inlaid in the path surrounding the fountain.
The grand-opening ceremony started with a blessing from Elder Bessie Mainville. Burning tobacco and wafting its smoke in all four directions with her hand, she spoke softly in Ojibway to purify the park for the children.
“Good things will be happening here,” said her daughter, Donna, “[She’s calling on] the Light Sage and praying to the Creator, Mother Earth, and the guardians of the four directions.”
Schill, project manager and co-chair of the park, spoke about the vision of Bud Danylchuk, a club past president.
The park was first built more than 20 years ago and known simply as Lions Park. But in the fall of 1997, Danylchuk suggested they improve that park--and the rest, as they say, is history.
“That vision has today become a reality,” Schill said.
Schill also talked about the number of donations that made the park possible, including donated lumber for the picnic tables and donated hours to put them together.
“The spirit of giving in this community never stops,” he remarked.
Nault noted the shelter is in the form of a wigwam to celebrate the participation of the natives in the community.