Oxford ready to put that sinking feeling in the past

Residents of Oxford, N.S., are hoping the new year will bring good news about a sinkhole that swallowed up part of a community park.

The town is waiting to hear if it will get government funding for geological testing. 

The sinkhole started small, about the size of an oil barrel. But on Aug. 20, it grew to devour trees, picnic benches and part of a parking lot at the Lions Club. A playground at the site had to be removed.

“It’s been a tough year and if the tests don’t come back positive for us to reuse that land, I guess we’ll be looking at a bunch of years rebuilding somewhere else and see if we can get back on our feet,” said Neil Rideout, secretary of the Lions Club.

Rideout said the club served as a community hall for the town. There were programs for children, adults and seniors operating out of the club five days a week before the sinkhole made it too dangerous.

With exception of TV bingo, the 60-year-old building has been quiet.

“I know the firemen, who have a new hall, are trying to accommodate some of the people who were using our hall. I suspect the legion is a very busy place, but it was a very busy place before we had these issues,” Rideout said.

In addition to the sinkhole, the town lost its school for three months at the start of the year due to structural concerns.

“It’s been a depressing year for kids in our community,” Rideout said. “They got bused to Pugwash for a few months, their park is off limits, their swimming area.

“I don’t know what else you can do but make a little light of it.”

The Oxford sinkhole as it appeared Aug. 27, 2018. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

Over the holidays, someone put a sign around the fenced sinkhole: Merry Christmas from the Oxford Sinkhole.

Rideout said he doesn’t know who was behind the sign, but he said he thinks it’s a message about better days ahead.

“There’s no sense in sitting around and being sad,” he said.

“What we’re going do is we’re going to try to show some resiliency and make it into a positive. Our community is not about the sinkhole. Yes, the sign is funny. But we’re about a lot more things.”

Christopher Brown, a musician in Oxford, was inspired to write a song — Sinkhole at Exit 6 — after the sinkhole opened. 

The song, which has more than 10,000 views on Facebook, addressed the loss of the Lions Club, the loss of the playground and fender benders caused by people driving by the sinkhole and getting distracted.

“I think everybody’s emotions have calmed down. It was very scary where it was at, where a lot of children would play,” Brown said.

Brown said he’s hoping the sinkhole could eventually be filled so the space could be used again.

“I have high hopes,” he said.

Even though it is largely off limits, Rideout said the Lions Club is “still doing all the stuff the community expects from us,” including barbecues, pancake breakfasts in support of the local food bank, and TV bingo.

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