The Big Picture: Opaskwayak’s 20-Year Community Vision Master Plan
In 2042, a visitor travelling north on Highway 10 could cross the bridge to Opaskwayak’s River Landing and find ample green space, a new splash park, a play area, an amphitheatre and a festival space facing the river.
That’s just one part of Opaskwayak’s 20-Year Community Vision Master Plan that was unveiled to community members on May 18, 2022, one year after the project team started putting ideas into action.
The plan includes videos and renderings of innovative developments including hundreds of new homes, healing centres, updated sports and entertainment venues, a spa resort, commercial and office space … and the list goes on.
“The vision master plan is designed to be as open as possible, providing Opaskwayak with the tools to respond quickly to funding and partnership opportunities that will arise over time,” says Monica Giesbrecht, Partner at HTFC Planning & Design and the lead landscape architect and land use planner for this project. “The carefully crafted plan, developed through rigorous research and community collaboration, sets Opaskwayak up for success regardless of what part of the plan they choose to focus on first.”
Monica and her team at HTFC Planning & Design worked in collaboration with Opaskwayak community members, leaders and elders; Indigenous Architects from Verne Reimer Architecture; civil engineering experts from JR Cousin Consultants (who developed much of Opaskwayak’s community infrastructure); and economic suitability advisors Meyers Norris Penny; to create a vision for the future of Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
In the end, the goal is to foster Mino Pimatisiwin (the good life) for community members now and for future generations. To do that, the Master Plan must:
- Respect the land and mother nature using traditional land management principles in harmony with modern day sustainability technologies;
- Integrate Indigenous Knowledge and cultural traditions to connect community members through gathering spaces, green spaces, roads and trails;
- Accelerate the economic growth, skills development and community independence;
- Focus developments in support of the circular local economy and regional trade relationships;
- Consider recreation, tourism, industrial, commercial, health care, education, and housing development as a whole with all supporting infrastructure required for success;
- Listen to all community members and build upon previous Opaskwayak studies;
- Think big in planning for phased long-term growth over the next 20 years with enough flexibility to adapt when partnership or funding opportunities arise; and
- Inspire all members of the community to be involved in community growth through the use of compelling visuals.
“This is a culmination of ideas we’ve talked about for a very long time,” says Chief Sidney Ballantyne. “The project team has brought our ideas to life and provided us with tools to go to investors for funding, to turn renderings into realities, and blueprints into buildings.”
In the next few years, Monica hopes to hear that Opaskwayak has secured funding for one or two big projects, whether it be a new arena for the Blizzards or the nature-immersed rehabilitation centre on Egg Lake.
“Opaskwayak has the courage to think big,” says Monica. “It’s been a privilege to work with a community that is so forward-thinking.”
Click here to learn more about the 20-Year Community Vision Master Plan.