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Pays Plat making strides in community development, infrastructure upgrades



A slew of community projects are addressing needs and enriching the quality of life for residents in Pays Play First Nation.

In a video posted to Schreiber Media Centre’s YouTube channel, Councillor Raymond Goodchild takes viewers on a walk-through of the various projects happening around Pays Plat.

John Szura, chief executive officer of Pays Plat First Nation, noted “ongoing” projects and others that are not too far off in the “near future.”

One of the major infrastructural projects currently in-progress is a water treatment plant upgrade — similar in scope to Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation’s water treatment project — funded as a cost-share between Infrastructure Ontario and the Green Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada plan for $1.9 million, as well as additional funding from Indigenous Services Canada.

“The water treatment plant was originally completed in — I think it was — 1998… the plant would be 25 years old now and that’s common for an upgrade in order to deliver high quality water,” Szura said. “We are fortunate that we have… very good water in the community.”

Even with good water, though, the age of the filtration system was starting to show.

“It’s a sand filtration system and the medium had been replaced since 1998,” Szura said.

Another enhancement being made to the water treatment facility includes an automatic chlorinator, which will prevent the operators from having to chlorinate the water manually and can even be operated remotely from a computer.

The current team at the water treatment facility consists of two licensed operators.

Szura said many Indigenous communities have difficulty securing provincially-certified operators and that Pays Plat is grateful to have the team that they have in place.

While these enhancements will bring more efficiency and ease strain on the water treatment facility, there are other areas that the community is actively seeking to develop.

Pays Plat has begun the process of upgrading their community hall and are looking to invest around $2.5 million in the project.

They have hired an architect and a design engineer with the hope to start renovations in the spring.

Szura said that the project is really just in the “planning stages.”

Goodchild said that the idea is to renovate the indoor plumbing, kitchen, utilities, and expand the building itself to accommodate a greater volume of people since the community is “growing.”

In terms of projects that are further along, Szura was happy to report that a housing development Pays Plat began work on just before the COVID-19 pandemic began is finally complete.

The three duplex units were supposed to be completed earlier but work stalled with disruptions to the supply chain and COVID concerns.

Now, not only are the duplexes complete but families are moved in and enjoying the new space.

These are the first duplexes ever built in Pays Plat.

Szura said that the funding provided to Pays Plat by Indigenous Services Canada stipulated that the new housing had to be multi-unit, so they chose to build duplexes.

Aside from housing, funding provided to Pays Plat has also brought with it the development of new recreational opportunities as well.

The addition of a brand new playground is giving kids and families a fun, safe space to spend time outdoors.

“It has honestly been an honour and my privilege to be part of this new playground for our community,” family well-being coordinator Kaiya Morriseau-Ferguson said. “Being on the sidelines and navigating the different approaches to get this here for our children and youth… and a long time coming. It’s been many, many years that we’ve been trying to get this for our community. A lot of our council has been working for years to get something here and it’s been amazing to see it come to life.”

The playground was made possible largely due to a donation Pays Plat received towards the project from the Northeast Mental Wellness and Crisis team, as noted by Morriseau-Ferguson.

Councillor Vanessa Bouchard said that it was around this time last year that the Northeast Mental Wellness and Crisis donated the funds to make the project a reality.

“I was excited,” Coun. Bouchard said.

For her, the completion and opening of the new playground is really a dream come true.

“Long before I got on council I had a vision of a new playground for the children… our old playground was not as safe as it should have been and there [was] lots that needed to be done. We just wanted a safe place for our kids to play,” Coun. Bouchard.

As child and family services coordinator Claudette Morriseau said, “it’s all about the youth.”

And an in-progress trail system — dubbed the “medicine trail” — designed by Pays Plat’s environmental technician Debbie King should also provide kids and adults alike with space to explore and enjoy what nature has to offer.

That project, much like the playground, has been long in-development.

Now, the trail is getting a new addition that will ensure more residents — including elders — can use it.

“Originally, we started this trail nine years ago through the Great Lakes Guardians program,” King said. “We were receiving $25,000 a year to promote the medicine trail and we roughed in a smaller trail… over the years, we were able to get more funding and we are now able to erect [a] wheelchair accessible boardwalk.”

The boardwalk is set to be four feet wide with handrails on either side and curb stops.

“This will… allow our elders to access the trail and then pass down traditional knowledge to our youth,” King said. “And then, the hope is that we will get a youth trained on interpretation and they will be able to guide hikes to not only our people in the community [but] other First Nations and the general public as well.”

While installation of the new boardwalk is still in-progress, the first lookout is already complete.

King said that, once the new boardwalk is finished construction, there are going to be three lookouts in total that all go right to the lakefront.

With such an array of developments started, in-progress, or completed, the community of Pays Plat is making necessary adjustments to accommodate economic and population growth.

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