An historic land transfer agreement is currently being negotiated that, when signed, will see approximately 60 hectares of undeveloped Crown land change hands.
The District of Mission, the Provincial Government and the LMS Society (which includes the Leq’á:mel, Mathexwi and Semá:th First Nations) have been negotiating the deal for several years.
Chandra Crowe, from the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, spoke with council last week.
“I believe this might be the first reconciliation agreement of this kind between the province a local government and First Nations,” said Crowe who called it groundbreaking and a model for locally-driven reconciliation.
She said the purpose of the land transfer is “to further reconciliation, to create new parkland and enhance recreational opportunities for the broader community and also to support residential and economic growth.”
The lands are adjacent to the Fraser River Heritage Park and the Pekw’xe:yles Indian Reserve, the former site of St. Mary’s Residential School.
Crowe said the area contains sites of cultural significance including three registered pre-contact archaeological sites.
The lands will not be added to Reserve lands and will remain subject to provincial and local government laws, including applicable zoning, land use, land development and property tax laws.
Under the proposed agreement, approximately 50 hectares of the land adjacent to the Fraser River Heritage Park will be leased to the District to manage the area for public use as a community park and recreational area.
LMS and the District will form a joint park management committee and co-develop a management plan which will seek to enhance recreational and cultural values in the park.
The existing trails on the land have never been assessed for hazards and were not constructed according to any municipal standard. The trails will need to be assessed and staff recommended that the trails be assessed in partnership with the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association.
The remaining two smaller parcels, totaling 10 hectares will be subject to a land development process for proposed residential and economic development by LMS.
While there is no timeline for completing the deal, Crowe said they are hoping to have a signing in late summer or fall.
“This is 10 years in the making,” said Mission Mayor Pam Alexis. “This is the first tri-partied agreement in the province… we are leading the way.”