The discovery of contaminants in Centennial Park is creating an opportunity to redesign the greenspace and make it a centrepiece for the community, city officials say.
“It isn’t every day that one group of citizens gets to leave a legacy for generations of other citizens,” says Beth Gignac, Sarnia’s director of parks and recreation.
As the second phase of remediation begins, city staff is suggesting major changes for park features and their locations.
A series of public meetings is set to begin May 27 to ensure the community is in on the decision-making.
“This redesign is really a launching pad for what this park can be. It’s really exciting,” said the city’s chief engineer Andre Morin.
“Remediation is something we have to do. It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I’d love to see a new concept that will have a big impact on our waterfront park.”
City council has already approved the demolition of the aging Dow People Place this summer and construction of an armour stone wall to protect the shoreline along Sarnia Bay.
The playground near the water is one of the most heavily contaminated areas of the park. Remediation there and in areas south and east of it involves 5,500 to 7,000 square metres of soil, contaminated with asbestos and heavy metals.
Rather than pay the high cost of landfilling that dirt, Morin said staff is suggesting it is moved west to the existing boat launch area, capped, then covered with a geotextile material and clean fill.
The popular boat launch and its parking lot would then be rebuilt closer to Sarnia Bay Marina.
“The final design isn’t there yet but we know we need to relocate the boat launch, and Sarnia Bay Marina is onboard with it,” Morin said. Special features like the Missing Worker sculpture, Victims of Chemical Valley Memorial Garden and Victorian Order of Nurses Memorial Garden will remain in place.
A new boat launch located closer to the marina will abut much deeper water and dredging will be less likely, Morin said.
That’s important because there are contaminants just offshore in Sarnia Bay where the existing boat launch is now. Dredging there would disturb the river bottom and create a new environmental concern.
“Moving the boat launch also consolidates all the boating activities near the marina,” said Morin.
Council has agreed to spend $5.5 million on park redevelopment and remediation over three years. Ultimately, the city park could have a new stage area, new washrooms, better boat ramp facilities, a new playground and other amenities.
At the same time, tonnes of contaminated soil will be cleaned up or capped and covered.
“It’s a great opportunity really,” said Morin. “As typical environmental cleanups go, we’ve been speeding this along because it’s a park.”
Staff are working with the volunteer Legacy Project Team that was assembled to build something in Centennial Park last year. When contaminants were discovered and most of the park was closed to the public, Legacy plans were put on hold.
Now the team is aiming to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Centennial Park and the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation with a capital project in the park by 2017.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Public meeting to gather input for Centennial Park redesign
WHEN: May 27; Doors open 6:30 p.m. Meeting at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Sarnia Bay Marina