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Wanuskewin Heritage Park gets boost from Sask. government toward UNESCO designation

Renderings of the expansion and renovations underway at Wanuskewin Heritage Park.
Renderings of the expansion and renovations underway at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Wanuskewin Heritage Park / Supplied

Wanuskewin Heritage Park is getting a boost from the Saskatchewan government in its quest to become a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Government officials said recently purchased land not required for the proposed Saskatoon Freeway will be made available to the park.

“This parcel of land will serve the future Saskatoon Freeway, while lands not required for the infrastructure can support Wanuskewin Heritage Park and their conservation efforts,” Highways and Infrastructure Minister Greg Ottenbreit said Friday in a statement.

READ MORE: Vision of Wanuskewin Heritage Park renewal unveiled

Wanuskewin chair Felix Thomas said it is another step forward in collaborating with the province towards the UNESCO designation.

“The UNESCO World Heritage process will require demonstrated partnerships with all of our stakeholders as well as an adequate buffer zone,” Thomas said.

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“We are grateful for their commitment to moving forward with Wanuskewin toward this world-class designation.”

The province said Wanuskewin will be provided interim access to the land during the planning stage for the Saskatoon Freeway.

Once the land required for the project is determined, government officials said arrangements will be made for the park to be provided access to the remaining land on a long-term basis.

READ MORE: Planning moves forward on proposed 55km Saskatoon Freeway

Wanuskewin has been involved in workshops around the proposed freeway, and one key issue is preserving the land around the park, which park officials previously said is crucial in its UNESCO application.

The functional planning study team for the freeway said they were informed that an inadequate buffer between Wanuskewin and the development could derail the UNESCO nomination process.

“This is a delicate parcel of land and it is crucial to protect the 6,400 years of history as a gathering place,” a report from the team said in October.

Government officials said Wanuskewin is important to tourism for fostering education and respect for Indigenous culture, heritage and arts.

The park launched a $40 million renewal project in 2017 to remake it into a world-renowned centre for education, entertainment and tourism.

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It was named to Canada’s tentative list for a UNESCO World Heritage site designation in December 2017.

Wanuskewin is also aiming to introduce a small herd of plains bison to the park in early 2020.

READ MORE: Wanuskewin Heritage Park wins national tourism award

The park won national recognition earlier this month for sharing Indigenous culture, traditions and history.

It received the ITAC Indigenous Tourism Award at the 2019 Canadian Tourism Awards ceremony in Ottawa on Nov. 20.

Served in Saskatchewan: Wanuskewin Heritage Park Restaurant
Served in Saskatchewan: Wanuskewin Heritage Park Restaurant