What’s next for Centennial Park

Work to reopen Centennial Park is about to begin on the field area and toboggan hills, seen here at centre. The rest of the park will be remediated over the next few years. Glenn Ogilvie

George Mathewson 

Reclaiming the north end of Centennial Park for public use will not come cheap, but it will come sooner.

In one of its final acts, the outgoing city council voted last week to pay a premium and get the ball rolling on the remediation of the park’s contaminated ground.

The low bid of $2.5 million from London-based Bre-Ex Construction was $400,000 more than budgeted. But contractors are busy right now, and under the laws of supply and demand can charge more with winter looming.

So some action is finally about to begin, and here’s what sidewalk supervisors can expect:

Bulldozers will scrape topsoil from the open field area and push it up the toboggan hills on the park’s north end, making them higher.

“One of the main comments we got from the public was about the berms, to make them bigger,” said city operations manager Bryan Prouse.

Two smaller berms will be levelled: the one separating Harbour Road from the west side parking lot, and the one facing the Front Street parking lot. That soil will also get piled on the higher hills, opening a view from one side of the park to the other.

The MacLean Centre will be removed.

A layer of fabric, like that sold at garden centres to control weeds, will be laid over the area and covered with 20 inches of sand.

“The fabric allows drainage, and if anyone digs there in the future it will be a reminder that tells them, ‘Don’t dig any deeper,’” Prouse said.

The sand will arrive via conveyer belt running from a staging area in the Front Street parking lot. The conveyor will allow delivery trucks to stay out of the park and eliminate the need to wash them down each time to remove any possible contamination.

Finally, topsoil will be spread and planted with grass seed.

Some trees will be felled and replaced with new trees and shrubs.

Much of Centennial Park was fenced off last year after testing revealed some areas contain various levels of lead, oil and asbestos.

When bulldozers begin ripping up the field, dust control will be enforced and monitoring done to ensure asbestos fibres aren’t released to the air, Prouse said.

”We will be watching it very, very carefully.”

If Sarnia gets a lingering fall and a mild winter it is possible the north end could reopen in 2014. It’s more likely, however, the fence will come down next spring after the fresh new grass gets mowed.

Golder Associates Limited has been hired to oversee the future phases. They include the beach and playground, which are targeted to become a social gathering spot on the waterfront.