The dirt on those piles of dirt in Centennial Park

About 2,000 tonnes of first-rate topsoil is piled in a parking lot on the west side of Centennial Park.

The mounds of dirt have been taking up valuable parking space near the city’s boat launch for 18 months, irking nearby business owners and creating parking headaches.

So what’s up with that?

“We’re going to move it soon,” says Ian Smith, Sarnia’s parks and recreation director.

The city piled the topsoil there in 2012 after scraping it off the sports field at Norm Perry Park to make way for Sarnia’s first artificial turf.

The soil tested 100% free of contaminants and was deemed ideal for use in construction of new gardens at Germain Park, as well as a new project at The Point Lands near the marina.

Most of it is earmarked for the west end of Germain Park, where benefactor Norma Cox has donated $750,000 toward a picturesque maze of gardens and pathways featuring a gazebo and reflection pool.

That project, known as Mary Anne’s Marigold Garden, was announced two years ago but construction was stalled because the estimates came in much too high, said Smith.

City staff have since tweaked the garden plan to keep it within budget, he said.

Meanwhile, area business owners, including city festival promoter Michele Stokley, have repeatedly asked why the topsoil piles are using up critical parking space that could be used by boaters or patrons of the restaurants and bars on Harbour Road.

They’ll be relieved to know the dirt is to be trucked away this month.

“As soon as our trucks can get in there without getting stuck, we’re moving it,” Smith said. “We thought the parking lot was a good place to store it because it’s hidden away, out of sight, and Centennial Park isn’t being used.

“But we do plan to remove it before things get busy down there this spring.”

– Cathy Dobson