By Andru McCracken

The federal and provincial governments and the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation are investing $8.7 million into the Ancient Forest – Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park, located near Dome Creek.

A press release says the money will go towards building new hiking trails, a sweat lodge, a pit house and a gazebo in the park.

The Lheidli T’enneh are contributing $870,000 to the project.

The project is expected to take three years and will also improve existing boardwalks, access roads, washrooms, parking and signage.

“We are just actually putting our history back together and we want to showcase that to the world,” Lheidli T’enneh Chief, Dayi Clay Pountney, said Tuesday on the CBC program Daybreak North.

Pountney said residential schools interrupted their cultural practices and traditions.

“A lot of the medicines were lost … so we are trying to revive that,” said Pountney.

“There are certain plants within that ancient forest area that were thought to be extinct and they’re still there.”

Pountney said the park is also the only area on the nation’s territory where cedars grow and that his people used cedar bark to make armour in times of war.

The park project will provide construction jobs in the interim but is also expected to create long-term work for people as guides and interpreters, said Rena Zatorski, Lheidli T’enneh community economic development manager.

“This project will allow us to share an area of our territory that is very special to us. We intend to ensure that the visitor experience is memorable, respectful, and life-changing,” Zatorski said.

The park currently includes a 450-metre-long universal access boardwalk and another 2.3 kilometres of boardwalk that provides viewing access to ancient trees and a waterfall.