Donham a key player in getting cleanup on track

Letter to the Editor by David Darrow
Cape Breton Post
Sat., Mar. 10, 2007

I believe media reports regarding Parker Donham's departure from the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency have overlooked something very important: the invaluable contribution he made to this major undertaking.

I had the great pleasure of working with him on the cleanup from 2003 until 2006 and I have no hesitation whatsoever in stating that, had it not been for his efforts, the project would not be where it is today - on the threshold of implementation.

When Parker joined the project team, there was little agreement about how to approach the cleanup and little engagement of community leaders, and after 20 years of failed attempts there was a great deal of skepticism about governments' ability to get the job done. Parker used to joke that, for the tar ponds agency, the cleanup was a major communications project with a little engineering work mixed in. For a number of years, this assessment was not far off.

The situation today is much different. The dissension has largely disappeared. More and more people are beginning to appreciate the short and long-term benefits which can be derived from this undertaking and are turning their thoughts to the future.

Stakeholder groups from all segments of the community have expressed their support for the project and become fully engaged in the efforts to move it forward. Perhaps most important, the cleanup is on a solid path towards completion.

Clearly, the project's fortunes have seen a major, positive reversal in recent years. This is not to say that Parker single-handedly turned the project around: that would be unfair to the many other dedicated individuals. What I can say, though, is that Parker's vision, passion and dedication had a very positive impact on the project and on the community's perception of it.

You may not agree with everything he has had to say about the project and its detractors over the years but I don't believe anyone can deny that he always had the best interests of the community in mind.

Parker's vision of what Sydney and Cape Breton can become without the stigma of the tar ponds motivated him to pour his life into the project. It was rare for him to take an evening or a weekend off, and even when he did he was only a phone call away.

Thanks in large measure to Parker's efforts, Sydney area residents and other Cape Bretoners won't for very much longer have to simply "imagine" what their community can be without the Tar Ponds.

David Darrow