Construction of a new park in memory of Northern Ontario entrepreneur Nicole Guertin is expected to begin in July in Haileybury.
The park will be located on a one-acre lot owned by the City of Temiskaming Shores, on the edge of Lake Temiskaming, near city hall and the marina.
During their visit, passersby will be able to enjoy an incredible view of the body of water and a design that is out of the ordinary.
“We really wanted to have an innovative design; often in Northern Ontario, just like in northern Quebec, green spaces are ordinary. We wanted to have something unique, so we found designers who had already done several interesting projects and we worked with them. It is something important,” explains Jocelyn Blais, the spouse of Nicole Guertin.
Guertin used to walk in the place where the park will be set up before her death in 2021.
“Often, she would comment that it is a pity that nothing has been done with the place. She was aware that there was potential, but I don't think she would have imagined that one day it would become a park in her memory,” adds Blais.
The project was initiated by a group of friends and relatives of the entrepreneur and is valued at around $150,000. It includes paths, trees, a community garden, places to meet and meditate, as well as gathering circles, children's games, and public art. Educational posters on climate change will also be installed, in addition to a commemorative plaque in honour of Guertin and a section dedicated to her.
During her lifetime, Guertin worked in several fields, including tourism.
“She has had an impact on tourism across our province, and across the country. She is a great social entrepreneur. She had companies and lots of things to develop ideas to establish partnerships. She was looking to make a difference,” explained her husband.
Fifteen years before her death, she had begun developing businesses from her home in Haileybury.
“Following Nicole's death, we accumulated certain funds that we placed in the foundation. We will start supporting ideas for projects and idea development. Niska Park is a bit like the first project of the Niska Foundation,” he explained.
In the Cree language, Niska means "wild goose," a bird that Guertin admired. For the entrepreneur, understanding the behavior of this bird could provide useful leads on leadership and the importance of collaborating for organizations, businesses and individuals. In the habits of the wild goose, she noticed the values of teamwork, collaborative leadership, communication, and the importance of individual well-being in forming a healthy group.
A few financial partners have already supported the Niska Foundation project.
To continue fundraising, the book Cobalt: Canada’s Forgotten Silver Boom Town, written by Dr. Douglas Baldwin, is also available for sale. If the book is purchased on the foundation's website, the entire $70 will be used for the development of Niska Park. The book is also available at the Le Chat Noir store in New Liskeard and at the Cobalt Mining Museum in Cobalt. If the purchase is made at one of its points of sale, $50 will be donated to the foundation for the creation of the park.
Niska Park should be open to the public in the early summer of 2024.
Marie-Soleil Legendre is a Local Journalism Reporter with Reflet Témiscamien. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.