If the proposed Quarry Park is ever going to become a reality, it will need a strong group of supporters who are prepared to dedicate their time and efforts to move the project forward.
“What’s limiting this project from moving forward is commitment,” said Bonnie Swift, Sackville’s economic development director. “Over the 20 years this project has been talked about, nobody’s stuck with it. No committee’s been formed. That has to happen.”
Discussions over converting Sackville’s historic Pickard Quarry, located at the end of Quarry Lane off Salem Street, into a more community-friendly site have been taking place for many years but have never moved past the conceptual stage.
A proposed plan was developed by a consultant back in 2007 for a quarry park, with support from the town’s parks advisory committee. The project, anticipated to cost approximately $200,000 in total if all phases were completed, was expected to include a trail system, lighting and benches in its initial stage.
Swift said that number has now grown to nearly $250,000, an amount the town simply can’t afford on its own.
“$250,000 is a lot of money,” Swift told members of town council during their monthly discussion meeting Monday night.
And, as she recently discovered, funding options for municipal park developments are few and far between.
During research she has been conducting for a staff report on the Quarry Park proposal, Swift said she has reviewed several federal grant programs that are available for green space initiatives or waterway projects but the proposed project didn’t fit the criteria for the funding.
“Funding is really limited for this type of development for municipalities,” she said.
Swift said the town simply does not have access to funds in order to develop the park and so the best option would be to hand the proposed project over to a non-profit group who would need to seek private-sector funding to get it off the ground.
“It’s obvious it can’t be the town of Sackville because of the limitations. We can’t get the funding,” she said.
Swift said her report – which reviewed the estimated cost for the project, permit requirements and funding options (and obstacles) – recommends that town council make a decision on whether the proposed Quarry Park should remain part of the town staff’s future work plan.
And although most of the town councillors agreed they’d love to see the quarry developed into a walking park or garden, they agreed the municipality can’t be the driving force behind the project.
“The town can’t do it alone, or at least not at this cost.”
– Coun. John Higham.
Coun. Virgil Hammock agreed.
“If developed properly, I think it could be a major tourist attraction, similar to what happened with the Waterfowl Park,” said Coun. Virgil Hammock. “It would be a great thing but I don’t know where we’d get the money. But I think if you get the right group behind it, it could happen.”
Coun. Margaret Tusz-King said she’d love to see a group of local residents champion the cause.
“I think it would make a great story, one that would show ‘how does a community go about reclaiming a quarry.’ If we’re able to find an organization willing to do that, it would show how the community can get behind a project like this.
Mayor Pat Estabrooks said her concern lies with not only liability issues but also the upkeep costs once the park is developed.
She said the town already has a number of green spaces to maintain within the community, such as the downtown playground, the waterfowl park, Beech Hill Park, and Lillas Fawcett Park, and “there’s no way we can afford another park.”
Estabrooks also pointed out that the Quarry Park project was never high on the priority list for the majority of residents during the development of the town’s recreation master plan, with other existing parks taking precedence over the new initiative.