Collingwood’s gathering circle to honour Indigenous heritage

The first project of Collingwood’s Waterfront Master Plan will celebrate the Indigenous heritage of the region and the country.

At the July 9 council meeting, parks, recreation and culture staff unveiled the design for the gathering circle.

The project will be constructed on top of a two-metre berm at Harbourview Park.

Town consultant Cal Brook said his group worked with four Indigenous architects with guidance and vision coming from Dr. Duke Redbird, an elder with the Saugeen First Nation.

“I think it represents a real progressive vision that the town has chosen to start with this kind of project,” Brook said. “When we are working with our Indigenous partners, it’s critical that process is being led by our Indigenous partners.”

The design replicates a food forest and features tree like posts with canopies on top.

There are benches at the bottom with each one featuring the name of one of the seven grandfather teachings.

“Each canopy has a different pattern related to seven grandfather teachings,” said Brook. “I’m really proud to be part of this.”

Brook said Redbird, a lifelong educator, saw this as a place to bring school groups.

“The opportunity he saw with this project was not just a gathering place but a kind tool that someone like he could use to take people through a story and a journey that talked about Indigenous world views, history, culture,” he said.

Dean Collver, director of parks, recreation and culture, said the project is expected to be completed by September. The town will be receiving from the Steelworkers union who while in town for a conference, will be offering financial contribution but in-kind labour support for the project.

He said their contribution saved the project about $100,000.

However, Collver said the project will come in higher than the projected $600,000 budget and he plans to return to council to ask for the extra amount, which will come out of reserves.

The Waterfront Master Plan was introduced in 2016 and is a three phase, $50 million project that could be completed over the next 17 years.