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Feds to help fund Oxford sinkhole study

GHD Ltd. hired to complete geophysical testing of giant hole in community park


It’s news Rob Moores has been waiting for since a giant hole swallowed a big portion of the Lions Park in Oxford.

Moores had just been named be elected the king lion of the Oxford Lions Club last summer when the sinkhole opened up in the park in August, forcing the club to close its community centre and remove playground equipment.

The club, and community, received good news on Friday when Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey announced $68,500 in funding for the federal share of geophysical testing of the sinkhole and the surrounding area.

Funding is through ACOA’s Innovative Communities Fund. The province has already announced its share of the funding for the project.

“It’s a huge development for us, we’ve been waiting to know how big the cavern is underneath us and whether we can save the park and what we will have to do to save it,” Moores said. “Obviously this is the perfect place for the community to have a park and a community hall and if there’s anything we can do to save it, we certainly will.”

While the closure of the park and the centre has thrown a crimp into the club’s activities, Moores said it is still active in the community thanks to the support and generosity of other organizations such as the fire department and the legion.

Mayor Trish Stewart said following the announcement the testing will provide the answers to make critical decisions going forward.

“We really can’t do anything unless we know what’s going on under the ground,” Stewart said. “The whole town has been anxious since this started eight months ago. Now, we’re in the spring of the year and every time someone sees an indent in the ground they automatically think there’s another sinkhole forming.”

It’s not known when the testing will begin or when results will be known.

Dan Parker of GHD Ltd., which has been contracted to complete the tests, said his company will complete an image of the subsurface without digging, including electrical resistivity and seismic testing looking for rocks and potential voids

“It’s like when you go to the doctor. Instead of opening you up, he would scan you to see what’s going on inside,” Parker said. “We’ll follow that up with a geotechnical survey to pinpoint and focus on the geophysical results to see exactly what’s going on.”

Cumberland County’s EMO coordinator Mike Johnson said the testing will answer a lot of questions lingering from the opening of the sinkhole last August and allay some of the fears in the community.

“This is something that’s needed to quell some of the fears that are out there,” he said. “We need to know what’s going on underground so we don’t have to worry about people coming into town or losing some of the economic industries in this community. If we lose that street, the amount of money it would cost to rebuild that highway would be enormous. It would be a huge relief to get this underway.”

When the sinkhole opened up last summer there were concerned it could threaten the main street into Oxford as well as nearby businesses Tim Hortons and the Irving Mainway. There have also been concerns the sinkhole could impact the Trans-Canada Highway and a depression has formed at the end of the highway on an on-ramp on the westbound section of the road.

Casey said it’s a relief for himself and residents that at least the community will find what’s at risk and what isn’t.

“It’s hard to explain to someone outside the community how frightening this is,” Casey said. “If you don’t actually see the sinkhole itself, the depressions in the area and the old sinkholes it can be concerning. This is the beginning of a resolution to this problem.”

Cumberland South MLA Tory Rushton said the announcement is an example of the province and federal government working with a municipality to find answers and solutions.

“This is going to close this step. Once we find out what the study says we can go to the next step and bring closure to the future of that property,” said, who lives in Oxford. “Hopefully we can get the Lions back to where the club belongs.”

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