Sudbury city councillors hear pitch to sell Meatbird Lake
SUDBURY -- It's been seven years since Ed Young lost his son to suicide and the pain is still fresh in his eyes.
Cody was found at Meatbird Lake in 2013 and every day since then, he's spent time visiting the memorial he's erected at the park in honour of the teen.
He was heartbroken to hear that Vale wants to buy and close the park.
"I don't understand why they want to change this from anything more beautiful than it already is," said Young, wiping the tears from his face. "On a hot summer day this place is full of people and you can feel love and the enjoyment."
Vale made its presentation to Greater Sudbury city council on Tuesday evening and discussed the rationale for wanting to purchase the park.
The mining giant is offering to buy the land for fair market value from the city as well as offer a $400,000 recreational enrichment fund for existing infrastructure within the community of Lively.
The company says it's making the offer for three reasons, one of those being the significant amount of work that Vale will be doing on its tailings dams that are located near Meatbird Lake.
"Over the next ten years, we expect to spend $100 million on upgrades to our tailings dams, so there's going to be a significant haulage of rock on the road that runs behind and in close proximity to Meatbird Lake. So we're worried about the close proximity and the public safety," said Claire Parkinson, head of operational services at Vale.
Parkinson said they also have a significant amount of environmental remediation that they need to do to the lake given the amount of seepage that has been leaking into it from those tailings ponds over the years.
The company has also been pumping in thousands of litres of potable water into the small lake every week since it was created in the early 70s and Parkinson said it's no longer compatible with their sustainability objectives from a water consumption perspective.
"We know there has been seepage and as a result, we have an obligation to clean that up," Parkinson said.
"I'm a little outraged that the company would assume that they could buy this place for $400,000," said Ward 3 Councillor Gerry Montpellier.
Montpellier said many of the constituents in his ward, including Chelmsford residents, use the lake. He also has been fielding calls on behalf of his Ward 2 colleague Michael Vagnini, who is currently away on medical leave.
"Anyone knows about market value but this asset is a community jewel," said Montpellier. "People come swimming here, they picnic here, they have reunions and so forth. To replicate this area for a sum of $400,000 is unrealistic and I did very clearly point out to Vale that if you need this place so much, you will replace this thing."
Other councillors also seemed reticent about the idea of closing a municipal park both during the meeting and afterwards.
Ward 11 Councillor Bill Leduc also questioned Parkinson during her presentation on what the company was proposing in terms of replacing the lake.
"We were asking Vale with their offer of $400,000, would they be willing to listen or to replace the park with something equivalent of another lake? And their straight answer was 'no, it's $400,000,'" said Leduc. "The residents of Lively have every right to be upset, it would be like the residents of Sudbury losing Bell Park. It's a lake that's right in our backyard, it's in their backyard. It's well-used."
The councillor said hearing about the seepage from the tailings ponds into the lake is concerning.
"Unfortunately, right now, I would stay away from the lake knowing that the tailings ponds are leaking into it. So I wouldn't advise anyone at this point in time to be swimming in there," said Leduc.
Ward 5 Councillor Robert Kirwan and council were urged by the city CAO Ed Archer to take the discussion into closed chambers after Kirwan questioned whether Vale was leaving the city with little to no choice.
"As soon as they turn off the water, the water is going to get stagnant so we can't allow anyone to use that property once the water and the land is contaminated. So I don't see any choice in this other than working out the best deal we can and try to provide the people of Walden with something comparable," said Kirwan. "I don't think we can build a lake for that kind of money, but I don't think we can continue to allow people to swim there."
Vale has said if they can't negotiate a sale with the City of Greater Sudbury, they are left with no other option and they will not be able to fulfill its environmental obligations.
In the meantime, residents like Ed Young are hoping there is still some sort of solution that can be worked out.
Vale has offered to move his son's memorial closer to the road or to erect a plaque in its place.
"I hope it stays the same. It is a beautiful place up here. People come up here to have fun and relax. Where are they going to go after this if it's gone," said Young
The ball is now in the City of Greater Sudbury's court. It will continue to conduct discussions with Vale and much of that is expected to take place behind closed doors.