Nova Scotia

'A sin to go to waste': Man buys Oxford sinkhole property for dream home

Mervil Rushton's new property includes 2.1 hectares of land on a stunning lake, a large community centre and a giant sinkhole that made Oxford, N.S., the centre of national attention when it formed in 2018.

Mervil Rushton bought infamous Nova Scotia property for just $10,000

Meet the man who bought Oxford's sinkhole property

9 months ago
2:34
Oxford's notorious sinkhole is no more. The property has a new owner and he has big plans for the land. The CBC's Carolyn Ray has the story. 2:34

When Mervil Rushton told his family about his new property, they were quick to share their opinion.

"Some of them thought I was crazy, but they probably thought that for years," he laughed.

Rushton's new property includes 2.1 hectares of land on a stunning lake, a large community centre and a giant sinkhole that made Oxford, N.S., the centre of national attention when it formed in 2018.

"Nobody wanted it, so I bid on it," he said. "It was a good deal, it was a risky deal, but yeah, I have it."

Rushton landed the infamous property for a steal — just $10,000. He says he was happy to take on the risk and bring the land back to life.

"It's a beautiful property and it's a sin to go to waste."

A large playground at Oxford's Lions Park had to be removed because it was too close to the sinkhole. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

The property just off the highway was home to the Oxford and District Lions Club when the sinkhole started to form. For weeks, people watched in amazement as it swallowed up trees and chewed up parts of the parking lot.

There were fears it would take the Lions Club building with it.

Extensive seismic and electrical resistivity testing on the property led the club to permanently close the site because of areas of instability detected underground.

Rushton's company specializes in relocating buildings, and he was called in to see the cost of moving the 3,660-square-foot headquarters.

But when the Lions Club decided to sell the property instead, Rushton decided he would take on the work himself.

At first, he planned to move the building to another location and turn it into a family home. But now, he's decided to move onto the property instead.

"The thing is, if somebody can't get insurance to reuse it for the Lions, it may as well be used as something. It's a beautiful spot and I'd like to be the one to hang my hat there."

Filling the sinkhole

Rushton has no concerns about getting insurance himself. While he received a geological report on the status of the sinkhole last week, he hasn't read it.

Instead, he decided to fill it.

On the first day of the work, he says crews spent 10 hours dumping 120 loads into the sinkhole. All that work only made a small dent in the giant crater. Rushton estimates it filled up by about five feet.

He started to question what he was getting himself into.

"It run through my mind but it was just a minor setback, when you start something you have to stay and finish it."

People came from all over to watch the sinkhole in Oxford, N.S. swallow trees and part of a parking lot. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

He got concrete from Oxford Frozen Foods, and fill the town had on hand after ripping up a street.

"We filled it with concrete, gravel, and mud, whatever we could get our hands on," he said. "We put a lot of big slabs, concrete slabs in at the beginning at the bottom for the base is what we did. The hole is approximately maybe 25 feet is what we can judge it at."

After five long days and more than 700 loads, Oxford's famous landmark is now gone.

Returning space to the community

Rushton says he'll take some time to renovate the community centre. He plans on ripping out some bathrooms and moving the kitchen.

Before that's done, he says he'll let local children play hockey or basketball in the main activity room. Eventually, he wants to create a path on his property to open it back up to the public and create access to the lake.

Rushton says people loved to swim in the area before the sinkhole appeared.

"We've heard nothing but good things from everybody."

Mervil Rushton stands by the former sinkhole. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

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