OXFORD, N.S. - For nearly a month, Oxford residents have been watching with trepidation as a sinkhole has been swallowing a huge piece of the Lions Park.
While the hole’s progress seems to have slowed, there are still concerns in the community about whether the worst has passed or if it’s still to come.
Oxford is hosting a public information session on Thursday night at the Capitol Theatre at 7 p.m. to provide the latest update on the situation and answer questions residents may have.
“We’re been working to be as open and transparent as possible about the situation and we felt it would be a good idea to have a public meeting so people can have the latest information that’s available and have their questions answered,” Mayor Trish Stewart said Wednesday.
What had been a small sinkhole became much larger on Aug. 20 when a large hole opened up in the ground approximately 50 feet from the Lions Community Centre. The park has been closed since then as the hole grew to a diameter of more than 30 metres.
“Things have somewhat stabilized,” Stewart said. “The sinkhole only changed slightly today with just a few inches of pavement falling in. Erosion in the parking lot continues but only lightly.”
Stewart hopes the meeting brings some education and clarity to the situation. She said officials from Energy and Mines will be there to provide information on the geology of the area surrounding the sinkhole and there will be maps on hand for people to view.
“We want to keep people in the know about the situation,” she said. “This meeting is another way to notify the public.”
The mayor said the province has stepped up to support necessary geophysical work on the sinkhole. Requests for proposals have been issued by the town with the process being through an alternative procurement process due to the urgency of the work.
The deadline for applications is today (Sept. 19) and the mayor is hoping the work can begin soon because there’s no way to determine how to proceed until the town and the province knows what it’s dealing with.
“That work will be done as soon as we can get everything in place,” she said. “It’s happening a lot quicker than would normally happen.”
She said support from the province and the federal government is appreciated because dealing with the sinkhole has been “quite draining” on the town.
Cumberland County’s EMO coordinator Mike Johnson said things are calm in Oxford at the moment, but like the mayor, he said decisions can’t be made on how to proceed until the geophysical work is complete.
“We need that work to be done to know what is going on underground,” Johnson said. “Until that point, we’re sort of guessing and we can’t make decisions based on guessing.”
The mayor is urging Oxford and area residents to support a Go Fund Me campaign kicked off by the Lions Club. She said the club has been there for the town and its residents over 60 years, the area now needs to support the club anyway it can.
“It really hasn’t taken hold yet because things seem to still be up in the air, but it’s important that we as a community support the Lions to encourage them to move forward,” she said.
To contribute, go to https://www.gofundme.com/oxford-area-lion039s-club-sinkhole .
As of Wednesday afternoon, only $2,240 of a $50,000 goal had been raised. The Lions have estimated it would cost $140,000 to replace the playground equipment while if the building were declared unusable it would cost $250,000 to replace.
The damage caused by the sinkhole is not covered by the club’s insurance policy on the property.
Stewart said it has been an interesting few months in Oxford, going from the high of the 50th anniversary in July of the opening of Oxford Frozen Foods, to the development of the sinkhole and then the announcement students at the Oxford Regional Education Centre would have to start the school year in Pugwash because of structural concerns at the eight-year-old Primary to Grade 12 school.