Preview of the cleaned-up Tar Ponds

The Sydney Tar Ponds cleanup is proceeding apace. The final section of the North Pond is now undergoing solidification and stabilization, a process that increases the bearing capacity of the sediments, and reduces their (already low) water solubility. Capping has been completed in the South Pond and large sections of the North Pond. Seeding and sodding are underway.

Here’s how the South Pond looks from soon-to-be-reopened Ferry Street:

Here’s the North Pond, viewed from the Ferry Street Bridge, with the former Sysco crane, now operated by Provincial Energy Ventures, in the background, and Muggah Creek meandering gracefully through the property:

When it reopens on about August 11, the bridge will enable motorists travelling downdown from the area around the Mayflower Mall to avoid Welton and Prince Streets. It is sure to be a popular route. Unfortunately, in what will immediately be obvious as a planning mistake, the connection will dump traffic onto a narrow, residential portion of George Street, putting unwanted pressure on tiny Napean St., as motorists make their way through Sydney’s oldest residential neighborhood to Charlotte St. and The Esplanade.

A better solution would have been to move the crossing one street over, to Dorchester, a broad commercial thoroughfare with direct access to the wide section of George, as well as to Charlotte and The Esplanade.

The 200-meter length of Ferry Street that will receive all this traffic is currently a mess of potholes and rotten asphalt. For reasons known only to themselves, CBRM planners did not take advantage of the three years the bridge was closed to carry out a modest paving job. That work will now either delay the bridge reopening, or create a mess after traffic arrives.

With its bike and pedestrian lane, the reconstructed bridge will serve as a lynchpin in an impressive series of interconnected walking trails, stretching from Whitney Pier to the north and the Coke Ovens to the east, potentially connecting them to an extended version of the harbor boardwalk, and thence to Wentworth Park, and — again potentially — Rotary Park, Membertou, and the Regional Hospital.

How much of this potential will be realized will depend in part on the project’s modest future site use plan, and the cooperation of the Regional Municipality, which has been oddly hostile to walking trails.

The net result will be a transformative asset for Sydney, marking the end of a 30-year nightmare of destructive debate and negative self-marketing.

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