A big chunk of Mistissini’s picturesque Elders’ Park will soon be sliced off and turned into a lot for a new house, if the band administration gets its way.
Nearby residents are up in arms because the lot is going to none other than Thomas Neeposh, director-general of the band and a member pf the Band Council.
The choice land with its spectacular view of Mistissini Lake has long been coveted as an ideal place for a home.
The Elders’ Park sits on top of a hill near the end of a point that juts out into the lake. It is a serene location perfect for sitting and relaxing away from the hustle and bustle of the town.
“Other people have requested it to build a house there and they were always refused. Along comes this person who holds a position on the council,” said one concerned resident. “It’s really a conflict-of-interest for me.”
The resident said the park’s neighbours believe Neeposh used his influence to push the plan to open up the park to housing.
Construction is scheduled to start this fall, but there is talk of a petition opposing the changes at the park.
Thomas Neeposh confirmed he is getting the lot: “That’s what I understand.” Asked if anyone else had ever requested the lot before him, he replied, “When I was the land registry officer there was no official request for that spot.”
Neeposh referred all further questions to Buckley Petawabano, the current land registry officer.
Petawabano acknowledged that another resident had inquired about putting a house at thespot several years back, but was turned
down. At the time, residents started a petition opposing any housing at the site and managed to kill the idea for a while.
Petawabano said all community members were allowed to apply for the lot this time around, provided they “passed the requirements.”
Despite a long waiting list for housing in the community and the fact that Neeposh already has a house, Petawabano said the director-general was the only person who actually applied for the lot. And so he got it.
Petawabano said the community lacks lots serviced by sewage lines and other infrastructure where new homes can be built. That’s why attention turned to the Elders’ Park, which he said Elders haven’t been using anyway since it was created five or six years ago.
“Elders like to be where things are happening, the co-op, post office, Meechum, where there’s lots of people,” he said.
The band decided to put a house on part of the Elders’ Park, turn the rest into a playground and create a new park for Elders in a more central location, like behind the co-op store. “The Elders can have both parks,” Petawabano said.
In August, community members voted at an assembly to accept this plan. About 150 residents were present.
Petawabano said he hasn’t heard of any opposition to the plan. But one resident who doesoppose the plan said people do use the Elders’ Park and they’d use it more if it wasproperly maintained. “Nobody ever cuts the grass, only once a year. The benches arebroken. Who’s going to use it when you have broken benches?”