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)

What breed of cat is Mikita?

He's a shelter kitty! The best breed! So... we're not sure. Basically a domestic shorthair. Since a domestic shorthair has similarities wirth many breeds, he's unique, much like other shelter kitties out there.

How old is Mikita?

He was born in July 2013. We celebrate his birthday on July 9, since we don't know for sure.

Where did you get Mikita's window seat?

It's called the Sunny Seat from Amazon! But the cover was a little basic so I made a new velvet one along with a velvet pillow.

What is Mikita's favorite toy?

He definitely has some favorites! He loves his battery operated butterfly toy and all of those Yeowww catnip toys! He also loves his handmade felt catnip toys and his cat tunnel. He likes to hunt his toys using the Sheer Fun For Cats blanket.

Do Mikita and Dahlia really eat raw meat, organs and bones and stuff formulated for cats?

They sure do! Mikita and Dahlia don't eat any form of kibble or canned food.

Why do you feed Mikita and Dahlia a raw diet?

After a lot of research, we prefer to provide them with a cleaner, less processed food with fresh ingredients. The commercial pet food industry is just too mysterious. The prepared raw meals for cats that we buy are minimally processed and species appropriate. It's not as perfectly nourishing as catching a live mouse, but it's a much better fuel source than highly processed commercially available cat food. Our motto is, "Start from what they would eat in the wild and choose something close to that."

I'd like to know more about improving my cat's diet, what can you tell me?

Check out the "Nutrition" tab for lots of awesome information. The blog has some nutrition information as well.

Do Mikita and Dahlia scratch your furniture?

They do sometimes, yes. We've made it a point to provide more appropriate scratching surfaces and encourage them to use them. Our couch is velvet, a much tighter weave. They can't really get their claws into the fabric as easily so it's not interesting to them. We also keep their nails trimmed (usually) which helps a lot.

How do you get Mikita to stop scratching your furniture?

Fabric plays a major roll. So if you have an enticing loose weave set of dining chairs, it might be a battle. The goal is to make your furniture less desirable and make appropriate scratching posts exciting! They make sprays, tape and other furniture deterrents but after trying a couple things, I decided that I just needed more exciting, appropriate scratching areas. Cats start scratching around 8 weeks old so introducing scratching surfaces and encouraging on a regular basis is very important for success. We adopted Mikita at 1.5 years old so we didn't have this option. We have two scratchers for him that he loves! The Ultimate Scratching Post which is vertical and the Scratch Lounge which is horizontal. The idea is to provide him with a variety of options to make scratching in the appropriate places "fun". Sisal is a preferred material choice for cats so I'd avoid those scratchers covered in carpet. Regular carpet isn't typically as interesting to cats. We use toys and treats as he rolls around in the Scratch Lounge. We used to serve his dinner by his post to entice him to scratch. This instilled some great scratching habits! Simply placing a scratching post in a room with no proper introduction may result in a cat not being interested. Always use positive reinforcement, treats and toys! Make the scratching areas fun! Treats are always great for encouraging good behavior. Don't forget to get several scratching posts and put them near furniture they're not supposed to scratch. If they are rewarded for using the post, they'll use it!

Where did you get the name Mikita?

Mikita is named after #21 Stan Mikita, a former Chicago Blackhawks player and Hockey Hall of Famer.