Two-and-a-half kilometres past where the current dirt road ends out to Sandy Creek, K’atlodeeche First Nation is building a wilderness lodge on a site chockfull of local history.
“I would come here with my grandparents,” said Ken Norn, chief operating officer for Naegha Zhia Inc., the band’s development arm. “Lots of members of the community did and continue to do the same.”
Norn is in charge of the project that will see a lodge, complete with running water and modern amenities, built this fall on the site on the banks of the creek.
He said the wilderness retreat may be used to host conferences, as a gathering place for the community, and maybe even as an educational facility for schoolchildren, although there are certainly other possible uses.
“My role is to build it,” he noted. “I don’t have to fill in the blanks.”
The site has played host to not only traditional gatherings, but also a Pentecostal mission camp in the 1950s, complete with a wooden church and cabins for campers. Now, apart from a gravel platform on which the lodge will be built, there are only a few cabins and a cookhouse in the clearing, accessed by a winding road of loose sand.
According to Norn, road preparation is the first step towards construction in the coming weeks.
“Part of our plan is to build new cabins eventually so that, if people want to come here for multi-day conferences, they can stay out here,” he said.
While it would be prohibitively expensive to keep the lodge consistently open throughout the winter, Norn said he intends for it to be ready for operation all year long. It would only take a day’s notice to head out to fire up the generators, he noted. The Naegha Zhia official is also planning to run power to the site in the future, but admits that probably won’t happen this season.
“We’re looking at October to have it all closed in,” he said. “It’s not a complicated structure the building itself, so we can put it up pretty quick. The interior work can happen over the winter if it has to.”
KFN Chief Roy Fabian is pleased to see construction progressing on the wilderness lodge, even if it was just getting the road ready to bear equipment and traffic as of last week.
“This project is something we’ve been sitting on for eight years,” he told The Hub. “We needed to work out some of our financial issues, but now that we have that all cleaned up, we can get back to those projects that have been on hold.”
The federal government’s Building Canada Fund is the primary source of money for the construction on the Sandy Creek site, kicking in $777,000 towards the project.
Fabian said KFN would come up with a further 25 per cent of that number to put the total expenditure close to $1 million.
“There’s a lot going on and getting started on the reserve now,” said Fabian. “There are lots of possibilities.”
The chief said he would like to see the wilderness lodge used for tourism as well as for government or industry conferences. The cabins, which will most likely be put in next year, would go a long way towards making longer stays more feasible. The original plan had been to build the lodge closer to Buffalo Lake, but the decision was made to put it somewhere that was not only more accessible for construction equipment and materials, but also for KFN members themselves.
“There are lots of things we can do with this place,” said Fabian. “But the number one thing is give our own KFN members a place to go.”
— Sarah Ladik