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Reopening of Centennial Park has been pushed back to June

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Troy Shantz and George Mathewson

Numerous “unforeseen construction challenges” have pushed completion of the $12-million remediation of Centennial Park back another six months, city officials say.

The fenced off riverfront park is now expected to reopen in two stages, with people able to access the playground and lands to the east on May 26, and the new boat ramps, “Healing Garden” and area to the west on June 2.

The contractor, Bre-Ex Construction, removed the old boat launch ramps last week so it could complete a new seawall and berm facing Sarnia Bay, which means the municipal boat launch will be out of service for about six months.

The city said it has made arrangements with Bridgeview Marina to allow recreational boaters and anglers in the spring Sarnia Salmon Derby to use the marina’s launch facilities.

“We knew that they were having problems,” operations manager Bryan Prouse said of the contractor. “The main issue was the boat ramp.”

Soil conditions and flooding have made it difficult to establish a cofferdam to enable installation of the new ramps.

But numerous other factors have also slowed progress, the city says.

For one thing, workers encountered many undocumented water mains and concrete structures throughout the park.

At the Dow People Place they found a fountain beneath the outdoor stage and a metre-thick concrete slab where new water and sewer serves were to go.

The addition of a bus lane and park access point on Front Street conflicted with the contractor’s timing for soil remediation.

And progress has been hampered by vandalism and theft of property, which prompted the contractor to add more security to the site.

Bre-Ex replaced the stolen building materials at no additional cost to the city, Prouse said.

A long winter or wet spring could delay the park’s reopening even further, he added.

“The two dates are based on Bre-Ex having full access to the site as of April 1,” he said. “It’s hard to predict the future as you can imagine.”

It was May of 2013 when concerns were first raised about a tar-like substance bubbling to the surface in a small area of Centennial Park.

The city quickly surrounded about half the park with fencing, ending public access to the playground and bowl area used for events like Bayfest and Ribfest.

A month later, a consultant said the soil contained hydrocarbons, asbestos and lead that in places exceeded Environment Ministry by up to five times, contamination that likely coming from industrial fill dumped in the park in the 1960s.

On the advice of consultants, and following public consultations, council agreed to a three-phase process that was initially expected to cost $4.5 million to $6 million.



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