Those living in the Lower Sackville, N.S., area said they were “blindsided” by a recent announcement about a giant water park coming to First Lake this summer.
Earlier this month, it was announced that local entrepreneurs would be bringing Splashifax, an inflatable water park featuring a giant, 50-foot unicorn, to the Halifax Regional Municipality this summer.
The owners had planned to bring the water park to Lower Sackville last summer, but their plans were halted due to the pandemic. Despite that, residents in Lower Sackville say they only learned of the plans a few weeks ago.
“We were never consulted on this,” said Lorne Piercey, who’s lived in the community for the past 32 years. “This is just the wrong venue for it.”
“It’s going to leave a bitter taste in the community and it’s just not welcome here.”
Piercey is one of many from the Lower Sackville area who have expressed opposition to the water park, which could open as early as June.
It’s slated to open between Kinsmen Beach and the Sackawa Canoe Club, with access available through the Sackville arena’s parking lot. However, there’s a possibility the park could be moved elsewhere on the lake.
It’s expected to be open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Jeffrey Thibeau, who also lives in the area, said he too was blindsided by the announcement. He’s started a petition calling for the water park to not come to First Lake, which has garnered over 350 signatures.
“This is a carnival moving into our backyards,” Thibeau told Global News in a Zoom interview Monday.
Thibeau said that along with the lack of consultation, there are also public safety, traffic and environmental concerns.
“The volume of this lake cannot handle these kind of quick and detrimental impacts all at once,” he said. “We’re talking about a small, shallow lake with a small volume where there’s one stream that feeds it coming in and one stream that empties it going out. This will impact that lake.”
Though it wasn’t a requirement, area Coun. Paul Russell, along with the folks with Splashifax, held a virtual public information session last week.
Russell said the reception has been contradictory, as he’s received over 200 emails from local residents upset with the water park, despite the overwhelming support he’s seeing on social media.
“It’s been an interesting and very busy few weeks so far, and I don’t sense that it’s going to let up any time soon,” Russell said.
The District 15 councillor said that even though the area is expected to return to a form of normalcy by the summer, he isn’t sure a water park is the best way to get there.
“I don’t think the timing is great at all,” Russell said. “We’re talking about a lot of people getting together for this in less than a month. I don’t think the timing works.”
Another issue the planners with Splashifax are facing is permitting. Russell said they’ll need a federal permit from Transport Canada, a provincial permit from the Department of Environment, as well as an HRM permit, as there’s a 20-metre setback from the high watermark on the lake.
“Splashifax started applying for the permits last week and they’re planning on opening this in less than a month,” Russel said. “I’m not sure they’re going to have permits in place by that time.”
Dave Wolpin, co-owner of Splashifax, said he’s aware of concerns from the community and is working diligently to keep the community informed.
“It’s a process, but as soon as something is certain then people will know.”
When it comes to the lack of public consultation, Wolpin said he’s open to having public information sessions move forward to keep the community engaged.
“Our thought process a year and a half ago was, in terms of consultation, let’s consult the three levels of government,” Wolpin said. “But the Friends of First Lake were on our list. A year and a half ago, they were there.”
But Thibeau and Piercy said all the public consultation in the world isn’t going to change their mind about the park.
“I really hope that we don’t rush into something that’s not a good fit for the community,” Thibeau said.
“The more I hear, the more I’m concerned,” Piercy said. “There’s more confusion than facts right now.”