A B.C. northern Interior First Nation community is hoping to move past a community tragedy with the development of a beautiful new children’s park that will honour a late member who died in 2018.
Located just outside of Quesnel, the Lhtako Dene Nation is hoping to have a grand opening for George Longe Memorial Park early next month.
“We are trying to move forward in a positive way from such a tragic event that devastated not only our community but so many others as well,” said Lhtako Dene Nation housing co-ordinator Megan Burns.
“The children are our future and George Longe always made sure we knew that.”
Longe was the youngest brother of Chief Clifford Lebrun and was well-known for his good rapport with local children.
Burns said Longe was like an uncle to her.
“He was really close with all the youth in our community and treated all the youth like his own,” she said noting grief counsellors were deployed to the community following his death.
“He was everybody’s uncle in our community and he loved all kids.”
The park at the corner of Chief Dominic and Red Willow Road will feature a playground by Habitat Systems Inc. and include swings, swing toys, climbing stones, slides and a zipline. Several picnic tables and a brick fire pit with a grill on top will also be installed.
Pioneer Log Homes from Williams Lake constructed a grand archway with two bear carvings on the side and three bear carvings on top for the park, which is located in the community.
“It was just a lot that was available and I wanted to utilize it for this,” Burns said of the piece of land that was once just brush and was cleared by one of Longe’s sons.
“Most of the kids are quite happy and even the adults I think are a little happy.”
The development of the park comes after Burns successfully applied to the Investment in Canada Infrastructure Program that provided $298,616 through its community, culture and recreation stream. It was also provided $59,723 in provincial funding and $39,816 by the Nation.
“I think everyone is excited, even people surrounding our community because we’re an urban area,” Burns said adding not all members have the means or capability to take their children to nearby parks in Quesnel such as LeBourdais Park.
The George Longe Memorial Park will allow those without vehicles who live in the area to walk from their homes to enjoy the playground.
“It’s going to be good for all of the kids living up in this area not just the kids from our reserve, but other kids as well.”