Flying Dust starts Railway Ave. cleanup

Phil Ambroziak

The road to a better tomorrow begins with the steps you take today. That’s something Flying Dust First Nation understands and a big reason behind the ongoing excavation work recently initiated by the band along the north side of Railway Avenue.

“We’re cleaning that whole area up lot-by-lot and putting in better soil,” explained Albert Derocher, Flying Dust’s economic development adviser. “The soil is contaminated because of the bulk fuel stations that were located there years ago. There’s a lot of diesel in there – you can really smell it.”

The contaminated soil is being shipped to Marshall, SK where there are proper facilities to dispose of it in both a safe and effective manner.
Meanwhile, Derocher said the cleanup efforts are only one stage in a much bigger process that will someday see significant commercial development on the reserve-owned land.

“We’ve got a comprehensive commercial development plan,” he noted. “We’re moving forward with that and there are a couple of developers we’ve been talking to.”
However, Derocher also said it’s too soon to divulge what businesses could be setting up shop, adding there’s still a lot of work to be done before putting the cart before the horse.

“In addition to this, there are still many things that need to be talked about and worked out including municipal agreements with the City of Meadow Lake, taxation and leasing,” Derocher continued. “There are a lot of moving parts to this and we need to make sure we have all our ducks in a row. This (excavation work) is just part of the overall process.”

As for Meadow Lake mayor Gary Vidal, he said he’s looking forward to witnessing Flying Dust’s efforts to attract commercial development to the area reach fruition.
“Any potential addition to the local retail sector is a good thing for all of us,” Vidal said. “It’s a very positive thing and we’ve had a lot of discussions with the people from Flying Dust. I think both sides are committed to making things work, and that’s a good thing.”

As part of the First Nation Land Management regime, Derocher notes the reserve doesn’t have to get approval from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada when it comes to creating zoning plans for the property it owns. In spite of this, he said future work along Railway will adhere to traditional commercial development in accordance to the land and its immediate surroundings.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “One thing for sure, though, it will make Meadow Lake a destination place. Hopefully it will make people stop here and quit driving through to places like North Battleford or Cold Lake and, even though it can be a long process, if we keep our heads up and are willing to accept the reality everyone needs to work together, we can make good things happen.”

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