Oxford Sinkhole — What’s Next the 104?
The decision to close the Oxford Lions Club and park opens the question, “What’s next?”
The leading culprit is the Trans Canada Highway following revelations that laser mapping shows a large band of sinkholes crosses Highway 104 connecting Oxford with Springhill and back again.
The department of highways has been tending a small depression in the westbound lane of the highway, about 500 metres from the Oxford exit. The metre-wide circle has been regularly filled and patched and is now inspected by highway personnel on a daily basis.
The recent completion of underground radar and electrical conductivity tests showed the Oxford sinkhole to be too unstable to consider any plan to fill it in.
Officials now believe there are numerous other hot spots that pose risk.
The MLA for the area asked why the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) didn’t take advantage of the sophisticated testing equipment that was used to determine the underground structure at the Lions Park sinkhole. Tory Rushton says, “I tried to get them to check the highway when that equipment was in Oxford.” The MLA calls it a wasted opportunity and he agrees with town officials that the department should test around the 104 to give some comfort to people who travel the busy highway.
Sinkholes are common in Nova Scotia, especially in Cumberland County which is known for widespread areas of salt, gypsum, and other soft materials that are subject to underground erosion. The soft materials dissolve over time and create empty or water-filled caverns which can collapse as the Oxford sinkhole did last summer.
Many of the small ponds and lakes that dot the area around Oxford were created as a sinkhole, including the once-popular swimming facility called Salt Lake at the Lions Park.
Aerial photography from the 1930s shows a series of sinkholes, including one water-filled in the current area of concern on the Trans Canada.
The issued has proved to be much bigger than the capacity of the Oxford Lions Club which has opted to close the park permanently. Club leaders are considering their options for salvaging whatever they can from the building.
The expanding concern is also beyond the financial reach of the town too. Any exploratory or remedial effort would require a deep commitment from the province, the federal government, or both.
Concerns for the town’s Main Street and the Trans Canada have even larger implications for the two senior levels of government. The 104 is Nova Scotia’s link to New Brunswick and the rest of Canada and the volume of goods and commerce that travel the highway each day is measured in the millions.
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