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City sells Meatbird Lake Park to Vale for $4 million

Money will be used to support leisure and recreational improvements in Walden
The city has sold Meatbird Lake Park back to Vale at a tidy profit, as Greater Sudbury city council voted in favour of the sale on April 13. (File)

The city has sold Meatbird Lake Park back to Vale at a tidy profit, as Greater Sudbury city council voted in favour of the sale on April 13.

The park will be sold to Vale at a cost of $4 million, a significant jump from the $2 that the city originally paid to purchase the property from Inco. The net proceeds of the sale will be credited to the city's Capital Financing Reserve Fund and dedicated to the improvement of leisure infrastructure in the Walden (Lively) area.

Representatives from the mining giant pitched their proposal to buy the property back during a city council meeting on Sept. 22, 2020.

Members of the Vale North Atlantic Leadership told city council last September that the company would be undertaking a $100-million tailings dam improvement project over the next 10 years and that the project will mean heavy truck traffic in the area of Meatbird Lake Park.

Environmental remediation will also be required at the site due to its proximity to Vale's central tailings area. Work would include improvements to the seepage capture systems and removing and replacing impacted material from the bottom of the lake and surrounding area.

“I know that Meatbird Lake Park is a valued asset for the people of Walden and I can assure you that we worked hard to ensure that we will have the resources to provide you with new recreational amenities,” said Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger. “We know how much our citizens value time spent outdoors and we look forward to hearing from you on how this money can be used to offer new, safe and exciting recreational opportunities in the Lively area.”

Over the next few months, residents will have an opportunity to share feedback on what recreation opportunities they would like to see. The feedback received will be included in a report outlining options for new recreational opportunities and shared with city council in the coming year. Details on engagement opportunities will be shared with the community in the coming weeks.

In the interim, a supervised beach at Centennial Park, located at 400 Graham Rd. in Whitefish, will be available for residents this summer until a new recreation opportunity is established.

Meatbird Lake Park is located in Coun. Michael Vagnini's Ward 2, and the councillor raised some concerns about the environmental impacts tied to the project.

"There's green water as Meatbird is changing and they turn the pumps off, all the waterway going from that point all the way out to the First Nations and going into the waterway there is turning green in certain areas and there is an odor coming from it," said Vagnini.

"If we're going to be polluting the waterway that runs through the community I'm looking for answers on how we'll be handling that. I'm looking for something to say about what's going to the community of Lively, the waters, First Nations and Naughton, how would we address that?"

Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger stressed that the sale of the property was the matter at the Vagnini's concerns was an entirely different topic.

"How is the sale of a piece of property that is now being contaminated and our waterways that are being contaminated, how is that not part of the sale of the property that's causing the contamination?" said Vagnini. 

Bigger stated that he wouldn't question Vagnini's assessment of the situation with the waterways in Ward 2 connected with Meatbird Lake, but stuck to his guns that it was a separate matter not tied to the sale of the property.

The city's manager of real estate, Keith Forrester informed the councillor that environmental concerns tied to the waterways fall under the jurisdiction of the Ontario Ministry of Environment.

"If there are concerns about off site contamination then that's for the Ministry of Environment to address," said Forrester. "If there's evidence of contamination it's in their portfolio to inspect and to issue orders."

Council voted in favour of the sale with councillors Vagnini and Bill Leduc of Ward 11 abstaining, while Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti and Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer voting in opposition.