Sarnians will have a lot to celebrate this Canada Day as the fences surrounding Centennial Park come down after four years and the community marks the country’s 150th birthday at the waterfront .
“We are set to do a ramped-up version of Canada Day activities in Centennial Park,” says Ryan Chamney, the city’s manager of recreation and planning.
July 1 entertainment will be split between Canatara Park and the new stage in Centennial Park, just as it was before Centennial was suddenly closed in 2013. At night, Canada Day fireworks will be set off over Sarnia Bay, said Chamney.
Sarnians who have missed sitting on the berms in Centennial Park during its $11-million cleanup and reconstruction, can look forward to an even better view because the revamped park has higher berms.
That’s not all that will be improved, says Joe Boothe, Sarnia’s environmental services superintendent who has supervised the park’s lengthy remediation.
There have been many challenges since asbestos and other contaminants in the soil closed the park. City council launched a thorough environmental cleanup amid a great deal of complaint from the public. It took much longer than expected, but the outcome will be a safe public green space with better amenities, said Boothe.
To dig up the park and remove the contaminants, every feature including the playground, the stage, gardens and monuments had to be removed.
They are all being rebuilt in conjunction with public and police input to make the park more user friendly and safer, Boothe said.
Reopening will take place in two stages. By the end of May, fences enclosing the entire east side, including a new playground, concession, washrooms and larger stage, will be down.
The west side of the park including a new boat launch is expected to be open by the end of June.
Canada Day will be the first big public event back in the park, with many more to follow, said Chamney. “We’re seeing quite a bit of interest and are planning the return of the waterfront concert series in Centennial Park this summer,” he said.
Boothe said he believes complaints related to the relocation of the boat launch have been addressed. It is being built between the fuelling dock and the Sarnia Bay Marina building and will offer two double-wide boat launches in a deeper area for bigger boats.
Bre-Ex, the company hired for the massive remediation job, is trying to finish as quickly as possible, Boothe said.
“We’ve had amazing weather and we’re extremely happy with the amount of progress this winter,” he said. It’s hoped May will be relatively dry to facilitate the pouring of new asphalt pathways and the planting of new gardens and trees.
Boothe said he believes nearby residents will be happy to see that the new stage faces Sarnia Bay so that the sound wafts out over the water instead of generating noise complaints.
Another significant improvement involves the park’s large grassy field that used to flood when it rained. That problem should be resolved since the field has been regraded and a new pumping station will help any rain flow towards the river.
The actual cost of reconstruction is $7 million with another $4 million spent on the original assessments and environmental cleanup, Boothe added.