Open Hearth Park new name for remediated tar ponds site

Cape Breton Post
June 14, 2013
By Nancy King

Sydney - A new chapter in the story that is the history of Sydney began Friday with the naming of part of the former tar ponds site as Open Hearth Park.

Students were encouraged to suggest names for the park, with the submissions whittled down to five. Students in Rob Sinclair's Grade 6 class at Macdonald Elementary in Dominion learned at the naming ceremony that their submission won with more than twice as many online votes as other contenders. "It was really fun, I got a little nervous and we all went, 'Wheeee," said an excited Abby Deneyere, 12. "We tried not to get our hopes up too high but even if we did it's OK because we won."

The park development comes as a result of the $400-million solidification and stabilization of the tar ponds, the toxic mess created by a century of steelmaking in Sydney.

Deneyere said the name they chose was symbolic, not only of the steel plant and the role it played in its workers being able to support their families while it was operating but that the name is also relevant today.

Sinclair noted the students began a lobby campaign to promote its name and the community of Dominion showed them strong support.

The park - which will include walking paths, sports fields and an open air theatre - will be completed during the coming months, with events to mark its official opening scheduled to begin Aug. 30.

Sen. Michael MacDonald made the announcement on behalf of Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services. He noted the day was a long time coming. "It's hard to believe that this day has arrived, we've seen these tar ponds here for so many years and so much difficulty initially in trying to deal with the situation, but it's a great day," he said. "With the completion of the solidification and stabilization work, the Sydney tar ponds are now history and the park is taking shape before our very eyes."

MacDonald noted the remediation effort is within budget and is ahead of schedule and is a model for other projects. He noted many teachers used the naming contest as an opportunity to teach students about the history of the steel plant. "When you look at this project, it's unbelievable how it's all happened, it's a borderline miracle," said Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking. "I think this was my most challenging file but it's the most rewarding because of everybody around here that stepped up to the plate."

Deputy Premier and Cape Breton Centre MLA Frank Corbett noted the former steel plant and coke ovens site have had an impact on the lives of countless people and that was evident in the votes received in the naming contest. "The youth really had such a large component in this program and that's where tomorrow's leaders want Cape Breton's leaders to move forward, with themes such as this like rebirth, innovation and a greener and more prosperous future for all of us here," he said.

Alistair MacLeod, who chairs the Sydney Tar Pond Agency's community liaison committee, said he was proud of the role it has played in bringing the project to completion. "The committee has witnessed over the years this transformation of the physical landscape of Sydney and also has seen a transformation in the people who live here," he said. "There is a renewed sense of pride about our history, there is optimism about the present and there is a new hope for the future."

Corbett also announced some details about a community celebration to mark the successful end to the remediation project and to officially open the park. It will begin Aug. 30, with an announcement, followed by two days of events including a drum circle, multicultural festival, musical performances and fireworks.