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Sydney Tar Ponds Remediation Project

Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Photo Credit: NS Lands Inc.


Research by: Samantha Miller

Edited by: Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2019



Project: Sydney Tar Ponds Remediation Project / Open Hearth Park

Type of Urban Strategy: Green Cities, Industrial Landscapes, Indigenous

Type of ProjectSite Remediation

LocationSydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Date Designed/Planned: 2004

Construction Completed2014

Designer: Stantec, AECOM


The Sydney Tar Ponds was a massive project that changed the city of Sydney, Nova Scotia. The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency had a vision for a project that would end up being a $400 million project. The project intended to clean up the site of an old steel manufacturing site and Coke Ovens site, while not losing sight of its history. After over 100 years of steel production, the site was extremely contaminated by chemicals and metals, so much so that they had to close lobster fishery operations due to contaminated waters. The government of Nova Scotia was receiving criticism for not having addressed the contamination situation, so they partnered with the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency to clean up the site and transform it into an active and passive recreation park in the heart of Sydney. “The goal of the planning exercise was to prepare a phased land use plan that is logical and achievable, but is also visionary and transformative,” said Gary Campbell, President of Nova Scotia Lands Inc. “When it comes time to implement, the plan should leave a lasting legacy for the entire region”… Along the channel will be walking paths, new roads, sidewalks, bridges, commercial expansion along the SPAR road, and new infrastructure that will merge Whitney Pier with downtown Sydney” (Canadian Business Journal, 2011). The journey of this project and its evolution from years of steel manufacturing that affected the current residents of Sydney and the Indigenous people, whose lives have been greatly impacted by the production site. After the site was abandoned with Tar Ponds and tons of contaminated land, the government of Canada along with the government of the province of Nova Scotia made this project a priority because they knew that it was one of the largest contaminated sites in Canada and they were putting their citizens and workers at risk. The park today does not diminish the heritage of what the site once was, but gives Nova Scotians a beautiful park in the heart of their city with plenty of programmable and leisure space, that celebrates the history of Sydney. 


“The Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens are the vestiges of days gone past, when Cape Breton had one of the world’s largest steel plants. Very soon, the only signs of Cape Breton’s steel and coking industry will soon be the educational signs set up along the forest path along the Creek. The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency is making sure of it” (Canadian Business Journal, 2011)

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