Nova Scotia

As Oxford sinkhole grows, it's like 'watching a disaster happen in slow motion'

The sinkhole at a local park in Oxford, N.S., continues to grow and is now more than 30 metres wide. A large playground was quickly removed Sunday before it was swallowed up.

Nova Scotia town quickly removes playground from local park before it is swallowed up

The Oxford, N.S., sinkhole continues to expand, swallowing more trees. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

The sinkhole at a local park in Oxford, N.S., continues to grow and is now more than 30 metres wide, forcing officials in the small town to make some tough decisions.

A large playground at the Oxford Lions park was removed and put in storage Sunday afternoon after emergency management officials noticed cracks forming near the equipment, according to Mayor Trish Stewart

"Quite quickly we had to make the decision to move the playground equipment out of there," she said.

The sinkhole, which began as a small indentation, suddenly opened up on Aug. 20 when the ground under it collapsed. It has since swallowed up a number of large trees and some picnic tables.

The town decided to remove the playground after they worried the sinkhole could threaten the space's structural integrity. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

It is located near the tree line at the edge of the large Lions Club parking lot. The pavement of the parking lot, which has been closed along with the club's building, is cracking.

"We're kind of watching a disaster happen in slow motion," said Stewart. "There are cracks coming continually but at a very slow pace. It's now gone out into the parking lot area but not on the road."

Geological engineers with the province will be at the site Monday using specialized GPS and sonar equipment.

Sides of the sinkhole falling apart Aug. 27. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Mike Johnson, emergency management co-ordinator for Cumberland County, said while it's not clear what caused the sinkhole, the theory is that it's old gypsum deposits that eroded away.

Johnson said while the sinkhole itself is dangerous enough, people not paying attention to get a closer look is resulting in fender benders and property damage.

"If you're walking as a pedestrian to come see the site, or if you're driving by, please pay attention," Johnson said.

The sinkhole opened up Aug. 20 on Highway 321, also known as Main Street, in Oxford, N.S. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

He said he's concerned about people checking out the sinkhole at night. While it's unclear how deep the water is, Johnson said it devoured a tree that was about 12 metres in height.

"It's a very dangerous area. And if someone is coming in here at night, if they fall into that, they may never come out," he said.

Town officials hope to get a better grasp on what exactly is happening below the ground and how big of an area could be in jeopardy.

Geological engineers from the province spent Monday at the site using specialized GPS and sonar equipment to try to understand what's happening. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

The park is just off Main Street, the main road that leads into town from the Trans-Canada Highway.

Stewart said the elaborate playground was worth about $140,000.

"They did their best to get all the pieces out," said Stewart. "As of [Monday], they wouldn't have been allowed to go in and get it."

Johnson said so far, it doesn't appear as though the sinkhole will extend east toward the town.

"Just to the east of here, there's more of a bedrock foundation so [geological experts are] very confident that no part of the Town of Oxford east of here is in any danger from this event," he said.

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia