Ojibway National Urban Park could become a reality in 2024, Kusmierczyk says

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The region’s long-awaited Ojibway National Urban Park could be a reality as early as 2024, Windsor-Tecumseh MLA Irek Kusmierczyk said.

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“Sometime in 2024. That’s what I hope,” the federal Liberal caucus member said in an interview with The Star on Friday.

“My hope is to see a fully designated, fully operational, fully open Ojibway National Urban Park — in 2024.”

Asked about Parks Canada’s progress on its roadmap toward establishing an Ojibway National Urban Park, Kusmierczyk said the process is still in the first of three phases.

The “pre-feasibility” phase involves environmental and indigenous consultations — which have already begun, Kusmierczyk said. “At this point we are looking to gather local knowledge, talk about land use options, explore ecological and cultural significance.”

“I don’t want to set a timetable, but we are thinking of the end of this year (for the completion of the first phase),” Kusmierczyk said. “It could end sooner.”

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Next will come the “feasibility” phase, involving “the hard work of sustained consultation,” Kusmierczyk said. Topics to be discussed include: Boundary delineation, expansion opportunities, capital cost forecasts, governance models and in-depth Indigenous studies.

The final phase will involve “the actual negotiations and designation of the park,” taking into account land transfer agreements and infrastructure investment, Kusmierczyk said.

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“(The year) 2024 is a realistic and reasonable timeframe for Ojibway National Urban Park. And that’s with everything (done),” Kusmierczyk said.

“We have to trust Parks Canada and follow the path laid out by park professionals.

A section of Ojibway Shores land, photographed May 2022.
A section of Ojibway Shores land, photographed May 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Kusmierczyk made the comments after coming under fire this week for his lack of support for Bill C-248 – Windsor West MP Brian Masse’s private member’s bill that would amend the National Parks Act of Canada to include an Ojibway National Urban Park.

The bill passed second reading on Wednesday with 168 votes in favor and 147 votes against.

Masse (an NDP representative) has been lobbying on the issue for years. Bill C-248 won cross-party support, with Essex MP Chris Lewis and other Tories voting in favour, as well as members of the Green Party and Bloc Québécois.

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But most Liberal MPs, including Kusmierczyk, voted against.

On Friday, Kusmierczyk insisted to the Star that his vote was not political: he believes Bill C-248 not only duplicates a process already underway, but would actually delay the creation of an Ojibway National Urban Park.

“We’re already building it,” Kusmierczyk said. “If this bill passes, then we will have to start this whole process again…Bill C-248 is not necessary.

A map showing the six areas that would constitute an Ojibway National Urban Park.
A map showing the six areas that would constitute an Ojibway National Urban Park. City of Windsor Photo /Windsor Star

Parks Canada became involved in the issue in June 2021, when Parks Canada officials signed a collaboration agreement following a “non-partisan” teleconference with Kusmierczyk, Masse and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.

Last month, in what was hailed as an important step in the Parks Canada process, the federal government announced that ownership of Ojibway Shores (a section of park that has been the subject of many disputes) was being transferred from Transport Canada to Parks Canada.

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“That’s the heavy lifting. That’s the bulk of designing what the park will look like and how it will be governed,” Kusmierczyk said.

“That’s what’s happening right now. We’re way past the stage of deciding if we want a park and if we’re going to have one.

Asked about the possibility of the process being interrupted at any point in the phases he described – perhaps due to an unforeseen circumstance or a sticking point in the negotiations with the province – Kusmierczyk replied: “Zero “.

“We’re building it,” Kusmierczyk repeated.

When it was suggested that he might stake his political future on such a promise, Kusmierczyk was unfazed.

“The Parks Canada road is the real road (to an Ojibway National Urban Park),” Kusmierczyk said.

“This is the path I support. With all my heart and every fiber of my being.

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There is currently only one officially recognized national urban park in Canada: Rouge National Urban Park near Toronto. But the federal government has committed $130 million to establish a system of national urban parks.

Ojibway National Urban Park would protect six ecologically diverse local areas: Ojibway Park, Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve, Spring Garden Natural Area, Tallgrass Prairie Park, Black Oak Heritage Park and Ojibway Shores.

dchen@postmedia.com

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