The federal government, province of P.E.I. and Abegweit First Nation are partnering to reconnect the Scotchfort community to the Hillsborough River.
The river was an essential transportation route and food source for previous generations of the Abegweit First Nation, but the Scotchfort community is now separated from the river by Route 2, a major highway that runs through the centre of the province.
"I think today's step one," said Abegweit First Nation Chief Roderick Gould Jr. "It's important to appreciate where we were historically and where we've come today."
In a joint announcement on Monday morning, the province said it would transfer six hectares of land, between the highway and the river, to the band for a nominal fee of $1.
The federal government announced $4.4 million for active transportation and social infrastructure on the land, which will link the corridor to the Confederation Trail as well as to the Hillsborough River.
"It's very significant," said Gould Jr.
"More so than just a monetary value or just an opportunity for future development and economic, it's historically accurate. It's a respect for where we came from, who we are as a community."
'A really big day'
According to a government news release, this plan includes building several structures to ensure safe access to the waterfront and multi-use trail. One of those is a tunnel under the highway.
"You just kind of have to run across the highway and it's pretty dangerous," said community member C.J. Cleal. "There will be a tunnel going under the ... highway, It'll just link us to our old heritage land and it'll be safe and it's very good."
Some of the funding announced Monday will go toward the development of the Epekwitk Mena'taqug Centre, a business and retail centre. Initial funding for that project was announced in August 2019.
Premier Dennis King said it's "an important day, a big day for P.E.I. and a really big day for the Abegweit First Nation."
King said construction on the project is slated to begin this summer and will hopefully wrap up by the fall.
"When everyone works together toward the same end we can do really incredible things here in this province," he said.
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