Sackville’s mayor says new Waterfowl Park Rotary Bridge helps tell environmental story

Ribbon cutting to open Rotary Bridge. L-R: Mayor John Higham, Rotary President David McKellar, MLA Megan Mitton, Waterfowl Park Advisory Committee Chair Sandy Burnett

About 50 people gathered today under a sunny, blue sky to watch the official opening of the $50,000 Rotary Bridge project linking Sackville’s 55-acre Waterfowl Park with a 20-acre park extension on land donated by the late Daniel Lund.

“Some time ago I used to walk along here and look across and say ‘what an opportunity we have to tell an environmental story,'” Mayor John Higham told the crowd just before helping to cut a green ribbon officially opening the bridge.

“People understand the marsh, but then right beside it is grassland and right behind that is the forest,” Higham added, referring to the Lund property.

“We’ve got a perfect environmental story which shows you how the environment works and how all the parts working together create what we have and create what we need to protect,” the mayor said.

“This bridge is the piece that links it all together.”

Community partners

Rotary Club President David McKellar

Sackville Rotary Club President David McKellar said the bridge represents the club’s policy of giving back to the community. He was referring to the $25,200 the Rotary Club donated to make the bridge possible.

“You’ll see small, but significant signs on the bridge saying that we’re a community partner and that’s why we’re here today,” McKellar added.

“Bridges seem to be a specialty of the Rotary Club of Sackville,” said Sandy Burnett, Chair of the Sackville Waterfowl Park Advisory Committee. “The bridge at the Swan Pond is another fine example.” He also thanked the club for helping with two observation towers in the Waterfowl Park.

Burnett, along with Al Smith, were founding members of the park, which opened more than 30 years ago.

“We really didn’t dream the degree to which the place and its trails would be adopted as a community gem and a community treasure,” he said.

Special place

Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton noted that the bridge opening was happening on a chilly, wintry day.

“This place is amazing to use all year round,” Mitton said, “and so we’ll be here and people will be able to use this bridge to go over to the Lund extension even when it’s wintry and stormy.”

She added that the large number attending the bridge opening ceremony shows how special the Waterfowl Park is to the people of Sackville.

Rotary Bridge crosses drainage ditch between the Lund extension and the main park. Note the bridge’s helical supports

During its meeting on Tuesday, Sackville Town Council approved awarding an additional $18,481.75 to Sackville General Contracting bringing the total cost of the Rotary Bridge project to $50,881.75.

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton said the additional money was needed to cover unanticipated costs including an extra 48.5 metres (159 feet) of helical bridge supports needed to hit solid ground.

He agreed with Councillor Shawn Mesheau that helical supports for boardwalks in the park had to be sunk to greater depths than expected.

“It’s extremely difficult to predict exactly where you’re going to hit that solid point to get the load capacity that we’re looking for,” Acton said.

For coverage of the official opening of the Lund extension to the Waterfowl Park last June, click here.

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Artistic drawings on Sackville’s Sports Wall of Fame may not be scrapped after all

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken

Sackville Town Council passed a unanimous motion Tuesday night asking for a delay in replacing the charcoal drawings on the Sports Wall of Fame (SWOF) with smaller 8 x 10 inch plaques.

The motion by Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken also asked the SWOF board of directors to re-consider making the change that council approved last month after being told that wall space is running out for the 13 x 18 inch drawings.

Aiken said that councillors had received what he called “considerable push-back and commentary” from members of the public about their decision, “and none of it was positive.”

He added that over the weekend, he visited the mezzanine at the Civic Centre where the charcoal drawings are displayed and his measurements showed that there is plenty of space for many more of them.

“There’s about as much room on the back wall of the mezzanine there as is currently devoted to the Sports Wall of Fame,” Aiken said, “so you could effectively double the size of it without making any changes.”

The deputy mayor said that the drawings themselves are unique and that he knew of nowhere else that has such a display of sports heroes and contributors.

“To me, it represents a nice overlap of the arts community and the sports community,” he said, adding that his motion calls on the SWOF board to give the matter some second thought.

“We have council representation on the board now and I think they are more than capable of conveying our sentiments to the board,” Aiken concluded.

Note: The council representatives on the SWOF board are Bruce Phinney and Michael Tower. The other members of the current board are: David Hicks, Gregor MacAskill, Steve Ridlington and Christine Gilroy.

Avoid social media, Black urges

Councillor Andrew Black

Mayor Higham was just about to call the vote on Aiken’s motion when Councillor Andrew Black indicated he had something to say.

He began by pointing out that town staff had received only two e-mails on changes to the Sports Wall of Fame, both from the same person and that as a councillor, he had received a total of three.

“If you look around the Internet, you see many, many comments about this issue from people in Sackville and beyond,” Black said. “I want to strongly urge citizens of our wonderful community to please reach out to the people who know about what’s going on in Sackville,” he added.

Black said the town’s website lists telephone numbers and e-mail addresses for staff and councillors.

“If you have a question or concern about something going on in town, whether good or bad, get the right information directly from the source,” he said, adding that such comments and ideas would get into the hands of people who could do something about them.

“Please don’t let yourself fall into the swampy mire of news blogs, improperly moderated social media sites or non-town affiliated Facebook pages that thrive on conjecture, misinformation, populist opinion and falsehoods,” Black said.

“Get your voice heard by the people who can make a difference, your elected officials and competent town staff,” he concluded.

Other councillors speak

Councillor Shawn Mesheau reacted to Black’s comments by saying that he had heard from several people about changes to the Sports Wall and had also seen comments online.

“I take to heart anything that is read online,” he said, “and I [also] take it with a grain of salt.”

Councillor Joyce O’Neil

Councillor Joyce O’Neil said that she ran into a lot of controversy over possible changes to the Sports Wall as she participated in 50+ aerobics classes at the Civic Centre.

She said people there know the sports figures depicted in the charcoal drawings and are pleased with the drawings.

“They’ve encouraged me to just ask that we take another look at things and hope that we can continue in the way we’re going,” she added.

Councillor Bill Evans appeared to agree with Black suggesting that it’s OK to disagree with what council does in online comments, but it’s not OK to be disagreeable.

“Everybody — people who are for and against the decision — want to do what they think is best,” Evans said. “We all want to honour the Sports Wall of Fame honourees. We’re only disagreeing about how best to do that, so let’s not impugn the motives of people.”

Councillor Michael Tower had the last word before the unanimous vote in favour of the deputy mayor’s motion.

Tower said that maybe we need to think outside the box and possibly create an additional Sports Wall.

“I don’t like to see these beautiful…pictures taken down,” he said. “It’s our sports history and we’re honouring them and I think we should keep them there as best we can.”

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As plans move ahead for Sackville dog park, councillors learn it could cost $80K

Lexi, an 11-year-old mongrel, surveys site of Sackville dog park beside the TransCanada Hwy off the entrance road to Beach Hill Park

At their meeting this week, Sackville councillors learned that the town’s first dog park could cost about $80,000, more than triple the $25,000 available for it in this year’s budget.

As a result, town manager Jamie Burke recommended that council allocate funds in next year’s capital budget for two fenced-in parks — one for small dogs and another for larger ones.

The off-leash areas would be in a field beside the TransCanada Highway in Beech Hill Park, about six and a half kilometres from downtown Sackville.

Burke made the recommendation after consulting with Viridis Design Studio, a landscape architectural firm, and after talking with officials in Riverview and Amherst, which already have dog parks.

“Amherst, when they first started their park, they had two areas proposed,” Burke said, adding that for budgetary reasons, the town reduced it to one large, fenced-in dog park.

“Their primary advice to us was to build two separate areas,” Burke said.

He added that most of the money would be spent on fencing, but that other suggestions included structures for shade and seating, waste bins and running water, holding areas for dog owners to be able to release their pets safely, and large areas for wood chips or stone dust so that the dog parks don’t turn into a sea of mud.

Conceptual drawing showing dog parks off Beech Hill Park entrance road (R) beside the TransCanada Hwy (L)

Burke recommended that before building a separate parking lot for the dog park, the town should wait to see whether people need one, since Beech Hill’s main lot is nearby.

“Before we go out and suggest that we need a parking lot, we’d like to see how users behave in the area — whether they’re using the existing parking lot, whether they’re parking along the access road and how they’re getting into the area,” he said.

Burke suggested the town should also wait to see whether users would need a trail connecting the existing Beech Hill parking lot to the dog park.

Survey results on location (click to enlarge)

The decision to build the dog park in Beech Hill appears to fly in the face of the results of a survey the town conducted last summer. Of the 472 people who responded, 38% favoured a downtown location, while 29% chose Beech Hill.

However, during a council meeting in September, Burke argued it made sense to put the dog park in Beech Hill because of its ample parking and running water. He said that it would generate increased traffic to Beech Hill, encouraging more people to use its facilities while making the park safer. He added that a dog park could also be popular with tourists because of its proximity to the TransCanada Highway.

Burke acknowledged that while some of the properties the town acquired downtown for its flood control project could be used for a dog park, that land might still be needed if the Lorne Street project expands.

Meantime, at this week’s meeting, Councillor Bill Evans sounded enthusiastic about the prospects for a dog park next year.

“I don’t have a dog,” Evans said. “[But] one of the great things about this town is that we do something for everybody and this is a really big, nice thing, or will be I think, for a significant part of our constituents and so I think this is great.”

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Sackville councillors set to spend $210K to complete Phase II of Lorne St. flood control project

Council will be asked to approve clearing a drainage ditch seen here from the dike along the Tantramar River near the town’s main sewage lagoons

It looks like Phase Two of the Lorne Street political, financial and environmental roller-coaster ride is nearing its end.

Town councillors are expected to approve spending $210,000 next week to complete the $1.9 million project that so far has kept the once flood-prone Lorne Street dry during recent heavy rain storms while creating a new 40,000 cubic metre waterfowl pond surrounded by walking trails in downtown Sackville.

However, Phase Two also came with the discovery of about 14,000 tonnes of soil laced with toxic contaminants including petroleum, aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals that cost $525,000 to haul away.

At their meeting next week, councillors will be asked to approve a staff recommendation to spend the $210,000 that remains in the Phase Two budget to clear out ditches running across the industrial park to an aboiteau that drains into the Tantramar River near the town’s main sewage lagoons.

That money would also buy a heavy-duty, six-inch pump to lift water that the aboiteau can’t handle over the dike and into the river.

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton outlined several options for spending the remaining money at council’s meeting this week, but recommended that councillors approve clearing the ditches and installing the pump as the preferred one for now.

“It fits within the budget that we currently have,” Acton said, adding that clearing the ditches would allow more flood water to be stored before it’s discharged to the river.

“[It] will give us extra capacity, give us extra flow out to an existing aboiteau,” he said, “and it also meets budget.”

Acton acknowledged that instead, council could choose to apply the money toward building a 20,000 cubic metre flood water retention pond in the old Sackville quarry or it could invest in more pipes and culverts under Charles Street, but both projects would require substantially more money that the town would have to come up with on its own.

He pointed out that Phase Two of the Lorne Street project is jointly financed, with the federal government paying half the cost while the province and town each contribute a quarter.

Acton said council could also choose to do nothing, which would mean returning $105,000 to the federal government, $52,500 to the province and keeping the remaining $52,500 for other local projects.

Long-term plans

Jamie Burke, senior manager of corporate projects, said that the town hasn’t heard anything yet about its application for joint funding of a $4.6 million third phase of the Lorne Street project.

Phase Three could include a 20,000 cubic metre retention pond in the Sackville quarry as well as an additional 40,000 cubic metre pond behind the community garden on Charles Street along with deeper ditches and more piping to carry storm water through the industrial park to the provincially owned aboiteau on the Tantramar River.

The town is hoping that the province would agree to upgrade the aboiteau to allow it to handle the extra water.

Councillor Bill Evans

During Monday’s meeting, Councillor Bill Evans warned once again that Phase Three is needed to handle the increasing likelihood of a one-in-one-hundred year storm.

“The problem with what we’ve done is that we have enough capacity now to deal with the ordinary major weather event that happens once a year,” he said.

“A lot of people would look at it and say, ‘Geez, we had a hurricane and we’re OK, we don’t need to do this,'” he added.

“The decision that was made years ago was to build infrastructure to deal with a weather event that hasn’t happened yet,” Evans said.

He added that instead of using the remaining money to clear ditches and install a pump, perhaps the town should consider spending $500,000 to build a 20,000 cubic metre retention pond in the old quarry even without federal and provincial funding.

He acknowledged that would mean allocating nearly $300,000 from next year’s capital budget to supplement the $210,000 that is still available for Phase Two.

“I’m inclined to create a problem for our treasurer and say, ‘This may be our only opportunity to get this much more [water retention] capacity for this kind of price,'” he said.

To review a detailed timeline of the Lorne Street flood control project, click here.

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Anger & regret: Former Sackville mayors speak about changes to the Sports Wall of Fame

Former Mayor Pat Estabrooks addressing Town Council in October 2017

Former Sackville Mayor Pat Estabrooks says town council’s recent decision to replace the charcoal drawings on the Sports Wall of Fame (SWOF) with smaller plaques shows that some local politicians are completely out of touch.

“I just disagree totally,” Estabrooks said during an interview this week.  “A plaque isn’t the same as a drawing and I think those drawings are wonderful,” she added. “That’s something that we as a community should be proud of and something that should be displayed publicly.”

At their meeting on October 15, a majority of councillors voted to accept a recommendation from the SWOF board to replace the 13 by 18 inch drawings of inductees with plaques that would be approximately 8 by 10 inches in size.

Estabrooks said that instead of voting to take the drawings down because wall space is running out in the Civic Centre foyer, local politicians should be searching for ways to keep them.

“I think that there’s sufficient space that these people could leave what’s already there,” Estabrooks said, adding that council could get advice from experts on how to show new drawings — perhaps as part of a digital display.

Moncton’s Sports Wall of Fame in the Avenir Centre exhibits plaques honouring sports achievers and contributors, but also displays photos of them on two TV screens as part of a digital slide show.

“That’s what I’m saying,” Estabrooks says. “There are ways you could do this without taking them [the drawings] down,” she adds.

“I’m not happy with this council, period,” she says.

“In my opinion, they have no idea of what else is going on in the world. It’s just all in that little, damn building down there and they don’t see beyond that building.”

‘Mixed feelings’

Former Mayor Bob Berry addressing council in June 2018

Meantime, former Sackville Mayor Bob Berry also says that he wishes some way could be found to keep the charcoal drawings on display at the Civic Centre.

“I understand the space problem because I’m in and out of that rink all the time,” Berry said during an interview this week.

“I realize they’re running out of room, but you can’t take away from that charcoal drawing that’s displayed on the wall. I have really mixed feelings.”

Berry adds that displaying plaques with pictures engraved on them would help even though he still thinks the larger drawings are better.

The former mayor, who has been a strong supporter of the Sports Wall of Fame from its beginnings in 1989, wondered if some drawings could be displayed on the foyer’s end wall where chairs and tables are stacked, but he also acknowledged that might not be possible.

“That end of the room would be the only place I could see them going with a couple rows of inductees,” Berry says, adding that, at the same time, he can understand that finding more space is a problem.

“I really like the charcoal drawings,” he says. “If they came down to me and said, ‘You want to see that bronze metal plaque, mahogany plaque up there, or that drawing,’ I’d have to say the drawings.”

Mesheau hopes board might reconsider

During the council meeting on October 15, Councillor Shawn Mesheau wondered if the decision to authorize the SWOF board to replace the charcoal drawings with plaques could be delayed to allow time for further thought.

He mentioned, for example, that a digital display of the drawings could solve the space problem.

Councillor Shawn Mesheau

Mesheau said during an interview this week that he started thinking about digital displays when he was trying to get an alumni group going at the Tantramar Regional High School.

He said he hoped the group might raise money for some sort of display of graduating classes that people could see on entering the school.

“When I went to the Avenir Centre for the first time after it opened, I saw the Sports Wall of Fame there and I thought, ‘Gee that’s a really great idea,'” he added, referring to the TV screens showing photos of inductees.

He said he was surprised at council’s lack of interest in his suggestion for such a digital display.

In the end, Mesheau and Councillor Andrew Black voted against authorizing the SWOF board to scrap the display of charcoal drawings with Councillors Bruce Phinney, Allison Butcher, Joyce O’Neil, Bill Evans and Michael Tower voting in favour.

While he says he accepts council’s decision, Mesheau adds that he’s hoping the SWOF board will take note of how people in town are reacting.

“Hopefully, the board will look at it and hear what councillors and the public were saying and come up with maybe something that goes beyond a plaque,” he says.

For coverage of the October 15 council meeting, click here.

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Mt. A. environmental conference hears about the ‘Indianness’ perspective on climate change

Noel Milliea of Elsipogtog First Nation

About 50 participants in an environmental conference at Mount Allison University got a lesson in the cultural meaning of making direct eye contact yesterday from Noel Milliea, an elder from the Elsipogtog First Nation.

Milliea told his audience of teachers, environmentalists and officials from the provincial departments of education and the environment, that Mi’kmaq children are taught to avoid looking directly into someone’s eyes.

“We believe making eye contact is looking at someone else’s spirit,” he said. “Mi’kmaq students who avoid eye contact are doing it as a deep sign of respect.”

Milliea noted, however, that non-indigenous teachers often interpret avoiding eye contact as a sign that a student is hiding something and therefore, can’t be trusted.

It was one example he gave of what he called “Indianness,” a perspective that considers the relationships among all things in an indigenous society that is matriarchal or mother-centred.

“We recognize the sacredness of Mother Earth,” he said, adding that people should treat the Earth with the same respect they show for their own mothers who gave them life.

Earlier, during an interview, Milliea said the indigenous perspective on climate change stresses the need for balance while a non-indigenous one sometimes values the immediate profits that can be made from exploiting the Earth and its resources.

“Climate change in an aboriginal perspective, it’s about sustaining what we have, not just short-term, but for seven generations,” he said.

He added that recent floods and wildfires are warnings of worse disasters to come.

“At the rate we’re going, there’s the inevitability of a major crisis happening,” Milliea said. “It’s something that we really can’t avoid if we don’t have really serious change.”

Climate curriculum

Grade 9 student Quinn MacAskill

The conference, sponsored by the New Brunswick Environmental Network, also heard from Quinn MacAskill, a grade nine student from Marshview Middle School who helped organize local climate strikes in March and September.

Millions of students from all over the world left classes to hold rallies and marches as they pressed their demands for governments to do more to fight climate change.

MacAskill received a standing ovation after her presentation in which she called climate change the defining issue of our time and spoke of the need for implementing a climate curriculum to teach students about it.

She said climate change could be taught and discussed in all school subjects, not just in science classes.

“Teachers have the ability to shape the future,” MacAskill added.

During an interview later, she reiterated her call for schools in Sackville to be more supportive of climate strikes.

“Teachers that I know have expressed their support as a person, but then as a teacher, they’re not allowed to encourage it,” she said.

“But there have been schools that have completely closed down and told the students to go out to the local climate strike or at least not penalized students for going to the strike, which would be really incredible if that could happen here,” MacAskill added.

Eco-anxiety

MLA Megan Mitton

Green Party MLA Megan Mitton told the conference we need to listen to young people about climate change.

She said that they have the most to lose because their futures are at stake.

Later, she said that in chatting with teachers at the conference, she heard that their students are increasingly feeling stress and anxiety because governments aren’t doing enough about climate change.

“It’s very upsetting for a lot of the youth because they’re wondering what does their future hold if we don’t take action and they’re not seeing enough action from adults,” Mitton said.

“There’s not enough mental health resources to support students and frankly to support the general public,” she added.

“I’m hearing that educators want support on a [climate] curriculum, but also on the mental health side, on the eco-anxiety side, so that we can be healthier as we’re trying to address these big challenges.”

Mitton said that the New Brunswick government should be doing more to fight climate change.

“I firmly believe that the Higgs government doesn’t have a strong enough climate plan and that they don’t understand the urgency of what the scientists are telling us,” she added.

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Sackville Town Council approves fence to hide ‘ugly stuff’ beside new flood control pond

New Lorne St. flood control pond viewed from walking trail

Sackville Town Council has voted to install a chain link “privacy” fence along the walking trail that runs between St. James and Crescent Streets on the western side of the new Lorne Street floodwater retention pond.

At its meeting last week, council awarded a $28,360 contract to Eastern Fence, a company with offices in Moncton.

Town engineer Dwayne Acton explained that black plastic will be woven between the fence links to form a visual and physical barrier between the walking trail and the debris-filled backyards of businesses on Lorne Street.

He said everyone agreed something needed to be done to hide the debris and besides, the businesses were complaining that the walking trail gives people easy access to their properties.

“There’s been a number of thefts of wheels, steel, aluminum, you name it, in the back of those facilities,” Acton said, adding that a chain link fence would deter this from happening.

One view from walking trail

Councillor Bill Evans heartily welcomed installing a privacy fence.

“Most people are thrilled with the fact that it’s a park and they’re enjoying the waterfowl and the wildlife that’s there,” Evans said. “The only negative comments are, ‘Can’t you do something about that ugly stuff?'”

Councillor Michael Tower agreed.

“It’s pretty darned ugly…walking by there,” he said, adding that when he showed the new pond to a couple from Brandon, Manitoba they were “super impressed,” but asked, “Why haven’t you done anything about that?” referring to the junk beside the trail.

Both Tower and Evans disagreed with Councillor Bruce Phinney who voted against awarding the fence contract partly on the grounds that the businesses on Lorne Street should pay at least some of its cost.

Evans said the town provides services that benefit everyone and that everyone pays for them while Tower referred to the fact that the federal and provincial governments are contributing three-quarters of the cost under the terms of Phase II of the Lorne Street flood control project.

Another view from walking trail

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