Nipissing First Nation’s beautification program returns this season with increased vigour. The crew has recently doubled to eight members, and things are beginning to look like they did before Covid took a toll on the initiative.
The seasonal program runs from May to December, focusing on maintaining and repairing recreational and public spaces throughout NFN.
The beautification crew service Garden Village, Veteran’s Lane, Meadowside, Beaucage, Yellek and Duchesnay. Roadsides are brushed, beaches groomed, and public spaces from playgrounds to cemeteries are kept tip-top.
Besides working on public spaces, the crew also provide grass cutting service for senior First Nation’s members.
Founded in 2007, the program was “originally designed to help to employ some of our members who have difficult times seeking employment,” Chief Scott McLeod explained, adding that the program “helps them feel productive in the community and provides meaningful employment.”
Indeed, the skills learned on the job help build experiences and resumes, and perhaps most importantly, “give workers more self-esteem in knowing they are appreciated in the community and that the community benefits from their work,” Chief McLeod said.
“We did a good job of making it not simply a make-work project,” McLeod emphasized, “we did something that would help revitalize the community.”
The pandemic “put a bit of a damper on the program,” as crew sizes were cut to ensure social distancing and visits to the elders’ properties ceased.
“We are excited to have a full team,” the beautification office clerk, Cailen Hanzlik, noted in a recent press release, adding that a new grass cutting schedule is in place to ensure each location is cut on a bi-weekly basis throughout the summer.
The entire program is funded solely by the First Nation, and Chief McLeod is pleased to see the operation coming back strong this summer, “and hopefully by next year we’ll be at full operation again.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.