‘Who’s going to maintain it?’

Concepts for tar ponds site questioned

Cape Breton Post
Feb. 16, 2012

Whitney Pier Youth Club executive director Chester Borden took an up-close look at some of the conceptual drawings of the park at the second open house hosted by firm Stantec Inc. on Thursday at the Whitney Pier branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Artist renderings show a large field for sports like soccer and football and multi-use paths for pedestrians and cyclists. Borden said he liked the overall concept of a large green space in the middle of Sydney, however he questioned its long-term viability with thousands of dollars needed each year to maintain it.

"What goes on after 2014? Who’s going to maintain it?" he asked. "Is there a plan in place for the infrastructure of other recreation and other activities that are going to take place at the site? How do other community partners buy into this thing, and is there a role for them?"

Taking in the presentation with his nephew, Borden questioned whether today’s youth would be motivated enough to use the new facilities However, Kobe Borden, a fan and player of both basketball and football, said he and his friends already take advantage of the new basketball court next to the soccer pitch on the former coke ovens site. "Instead of being inside all day playing video games, (the park) will give kids something to do," he said.

As part of the $400-million remediation of the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites, a maximum of $20 million has been set aside to develop the park, which will extend from the south pond at Prince Street to the mouth of Sydney harbour at the north tar pond.

The provincial and federal governments are continuing to work on an agreement to have the province take over responsibility to operate and maintain the site over the next 25 years. That management strategy is expected to be finalized next year. Since it’s provincial property, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality won’t have to pay for upkeep out of its parks and grounds budget.

Tenders for the different phases of park construction are expected to be announced later this summer. The park is expected to open in the fall of 2013.

Cyclist Jacques Coté said he was encouraged to see an area of the park dedicated exclusively to people on bicycles. "We were proposing a bicycle park, and it’s good to know it’s still there (in the plan). We are very pleased," he said. "Our park will be more of a learning environment. It will be a school — an academy if you want — and this (bicycle park) will be like a reproduction of a small village with the intersections, with the roundabouts, with merging lanes, two lanes and one-way lanes. "All this infrastructure will help the kids learn about the signage on the road and will be able to take lane positioning that is safe for them."

All of the multi-use paths will be available to cyclists — some paved, others gravel — with a width of four metres. That’s more space than cyclists normally have on city streets, Coté said.

Between Thursday’s open house in Whitney Pier and Wednesday’s session at Etoile de l’Acadie on Inglis Street, more than 100 people attended the informal meetings.

People were asked to fill out a questionnaire so Stantec can consider any concerns residents may have about the project.

Beside sporting activities, a large field nicknamed the Sydney Commons could play host to outdoor concerts. Just outside the commons is an amphitheatre that could be used for smaller concerts or plays.

Stantec’s Gary Sorge, a landscape architect, said the whole point of holding the open houses was to allow for the sharing of ideas. "I think the plan is pretty good. Right now we’re putting enough information out for people to tell us whether we’re headed in the right direction or not."

Stantec is expected to submit its final rendering of the park and its various functions by June.