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Playground, fitness facility groundbreaking for Island First Nations community

All ages being accommodated in the design
Thxutstun Drum and Dance Group performs. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The health of any community starts with the availability of facilities and the Halalt First Nation is excited about the development of a new space that will bring a great benefit to residents.

A groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning marked the beginning of a project to build a new outdoor fitness area and playground on the site of the current playground that was in desperate need of a substantial upgrade.

It’s also a tremendous boost for a community that’s been ravaged by flooding the last few years.

The project was made possible by funding of $270,000 from the Canada Community Revitalization Fund and $25,983 from the Healthy Communities Initiative Fund.

With the support of the Halalt and Lyackson First Nations, the Huli’tun Health Society collaborated with playquest Recreation for implementation and construction that will start Monday, July 25 and take about a month to complete.

“The space is going to be used by all ages,” said Christine Thomas, former community health representative for the Huli’tun Health Society and project coordinator.

The idea originally stemmed from Roxy Thomas and she had the honour of shovelling out the first piece of ground for the project.

Christine took Roxy’s proposal to the next level and playquest – with its main office in Edmonton – returned her calls that resulted in some action. COVID delayed proceedings, but productive meetings ensured it would go ahead.

“The project’s been going on for a couple of years,” said Laura Reid, a sales and design representative for playquest from Campbell River who attended the ceremony.

“We work with quite a bit of different nations,” she added. “The would be our first one on Vancouver Island as playquest. This is very exciting for us.

“In this particular instance, they wanted to have an integrated playground that’s community driven, a kind of universal one for the community where everyone can use it.”

It’s referred to as multi-generational and built to ensure low maintenance with nature-based colours and top quality materials to meet the highest safety standards.

“We try to use as much of the area in a conscientious way, work with the landscape is basically what we did with this one,” Reid said.

“Middle of August it should be ready to be used. It’s a fairly tiny one, but I think it’s going to be used quite a bit.”

“I’m so grateful this is going to happen and I can’t think of a better community,” said Christine Thomas, who received high praise from everyone in attendance for her diligent work.

Lyackson First Nation Chief Richard Thomas, Halalt First Nation Chief James Thomas and Huli’tun Health Society’s Health Director Debra Heald emphasized the importance of the project.

“We graciously acknowledge the Government of Canada’s significant contribution to supporting improvements in our communities,” they noted in a joint statement. “This project provides a beautiful place for community members to gather and partake in fun and fitness which this new facility will provide. As we move towards the end of the pandemic, the health and well-being of our community is paramount and this project will aid in our recovery.”

“We appreciate the generosity of our relations here in Halalt and keeping us included in the work that’s going on,” added Richard Thomas. “Good to see there’s going to be a park here and good to see our kids get out for a little while. It is a good day.”

James Thomas thanked Roxy Thomas for her role and getting that voice heard by Huli’tun.

“If we don’t ask, we don’t get it. Now it’s here in Halalt. I appreciate Huli’tun listening in regards to our health and our children.”

He also couldn’t say enough about the efforts of Christine Thomas.

“You worked really hard for us and we all appreciate it,” James Thomas said. “Our youth will always thank you for that work.

“Change is something we need to look forward to. The benefits will be here for us to see in the future.”

Following the blessing of the ground, Elder Danny Norris had his Thxutstun Drum and Dance Group perform five dances, including the Victory Song to mark the triumph of the project.

“For some of them, it’s their first time dancing today,” said Norris.

With short notice to pull the group together, “we had to improvise and use our younger dancers which seems kind of fitting to what we’re doing today,” he added.

“Thanking you all for your presence – a special day for our young children and all our families that are here.”

The official opening is already being anxiously awaited.

“We will have another celebration when it’s all done,” said James Thomas.


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Girls and boys from Thxutstun Drum and Dance Group perform together. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Concept drawing shows the new playground facility. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Roxy Thomas turns over the first chunk of ground for the new playground. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Christine Thomas addresses the crowd, with the old playground in the background. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Halalt Chief James Thomas provides some remarks at the ground-breaking. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Lyackson First Nation Chief Richard Thomas. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Danny Norris leads the Thxutstun Drum & Dance Group. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Thxutstun Drum and Dance Group. (Photo by Don Bodger)
The opening entry paddle song by the Thxutstun Drum and Dance Group. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Performance by Thxutstun Drum and Dance Group at the ground-breaking ceremony. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Spirited performance by the Thxutstun Drum and Dance Group marked the ground-breaking ceremony. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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