Cooper Park plan revives sculpture debate

Park to be acknowledged as traditional First Nations meeting area

Cooper Park in Dryden will have a new, official designation.  The section of the river from Cooper Park to the Riverview Lodge will be officially acknowledged as the traditional meeting area of the First People.  An information board is to be displayed on site with a brief history.

In a final effort to have the permanent home of the “Pieces of Dryden” mosaic changed, Leah Gardner, Curator for the Dryden Museum plead her case to council on Monday, June 14.

The First Nations history was very well received with all of council, although there were some strong opinions in the matter of the mosaic.

“I do believe that if in fact we move forward as a partnership on that piece of property, I can’t believe that the First Nations would be upset with a mosaic that is about here to the wall,” said Councillor Brian Collins, while sitting in Council Chambers.

Previous attempts at having the future location of the mosaic changed from Cooper Park to Johnson Park have been made, and were turned down by council each time.

“I would be willing to support any other place except Johnston Park,” said Councillor Gary Case at the June 14 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Gardner felt that as the City hired a new cultural planner, and is on the threshold of developing a Cultural Policy and Plan, this was the perfect time to consider such designation.

“Asking for you to set aside a little piece of waterfront to further develop at some point in history, I don’t think is too much,” says Gardner.  “When you’re looking at it from the mosaic perspective, and combining the two, I’m not sure how that would work.”

The location between Cooper Park and Riverview Lodge was traditionally known as Paawidigong, which means “the place of the rapids”.  This area was historically used by indigenous people to meet, hunt, fish, gather and teach.

Gardner would like to see this official designation complete before the Centennial celebrations, and feels this would be a wonderful gesture to our First Nations people.

With approval by council at the June 21 regular council meeting, it is hoped that a display board can be prepared before the homecoming week celebrations commence and have an official unveiling during this time.

Ally Dunham

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