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Giant sinkhole closes Oxford's Lions Park

Mark Rushton stands near a large sinkhole that developed in the Oxford Lions Park late Monday evening. There had been a small sink hole there, but it got dramatically bigger last night and it estimated to be 40 to 50 feet wide and 30 or more feet deep with rushing water at the bottom. - Shaun Whalen photo
Mark Rushton stands near a large sinkhole that developed in the Oxford Lions Park late Monday evening. There had been a small sink hole there, but it got dramatically bigger last night and it estimated to be 40 to 50 feet wide and 30 or more feet deep with rushing water at the bottom. - Shaun Whalen photo - Contributed

Popular park closed until further notice

OXFORD, N.S. - It could be some time before Oxford residents are able to use a popular park in the community, following the development of a massive sink hole late Monday.

“The hole is still growing, not as fast as last night, but it’s still growing,” Oxford Lions Club park committee chairman Don Christie said Tuesday.

Christie said he’s not sure where the water is coming from, but said there are gypsum deposits, caverns and other sink holes in the area. It’s possible one sink hole somewhere else could have created this one that left a sink hole in a wooded area about 50 feet from the Lions Community Centre.

The park is located across the road from Tim Hortons, an Irving Mainway and Oxford’s giant blueberry monument – known locally as Oxley.

“There’s a lot of gypsum in this area. It dissolves in the water and leaves underground caverns. Eventually, some of them reach the surface and collapse,” Christie said.

It’s unknown if there is any threat to the community centre that is the centerpiece of the park that opened in the early 1990s and is home to many community events.

“We have closed the entire park as a precaution until we can determine if it has settled or if there is any more danger,” Christie said. “We’re not taking any chances.”

Christie said residents have been understanding of the closure and the park is cordoned off. The closure also includes the popular swimming area, known locally as Salt Lake.

The park chairman hopes the worst has passed, but there’s still a possibility the popular lake could disappear.

“I just hope we don’t lose the lake. The level has dropped just a tiny bit, but there is a history in this area where caverns have collapsed, and lakes have drained only to fill back in over the years,” he said. “Some of the older people have said it has happened before with other lakes in the area.”

The first sink hole appeared a couple of weeks ago and was cordoned off with some rope and a picnic table. Now, they’re gone, swallowed up by the sink hole.

Oxford residents were shocked late Monday when a small sinkhole in the popular park suddenly got a lot bigger.

Mark Rushton was playing catch with his son in the park while his wife participated in a yoga class inside the Lions Centre when he heard a whump and felt the ground vibrate.

“I had just dropped my wife off for her yoga class and my son was going to go for a swim in the lake but it was too chilly so we decided to throw the ball around,” Rushton said. “I just heard the rush of water and didn’t think too much of it and then I felt the thump so I went to investigate.”

Rushton said a part of the park was already cordoned off due to the sinkhole, but the hole had gotten much wider and a lot deeper. He estimated it was 30 to 40 feet wide in one place and more than 30 feet deep.

He said if anyone had been near the cordoned off area they would’ve fallen in.

“If I had to guess, I think the water was coming from the other lake on the other side of the park,” he said.

Police and firefighters were quick to arrive on scene and close the park while the Lions building was emptied.

It’s not known if there is any threat to the building that is home to the Oxford Lions Club and serves as a community centre.

Shaun Whalen was also in the park taking photos of the sunset when he heard the commotion. He shot a video of the hole and took several photographs.

He said he was talking to a member of the Oxford Lions Club who told him they had just put gravel in the previously small sinkhole.

“I started laughing and said, ‘I think that load of gravel is probably in Port Howe by now,” he said.

He said the water was so loud that if you were standing near the hole you couldn’t hear someone else talk.

As of press time, the park is closed until further notice.

darrell.cole@amherstnews.ca

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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