Let’s hear it for the Guelph park pipeline!

July 29, 2015

PipelineNow this is progress. It looks like city engineers have finally discovered a way to rid our beloved Royal City Park of those irritating kayakers, canoers, baseball players and lawn bowlers we’ve all been complaining about.

For far too long, the riverside park in the heart of the city has been overrun with residents who think just because they pay for a recreational area, they ought to be able to enjoy it. Pfft.

This spring, the joke is on them, thanks to a clever pipeline project that has taken over the park and chased pretty much everyone away, even the geese.

Last December, we were told that highly sophisticated drilling technology would be used to bore a hole through the park, underneath Gordon Street, and straight to the Speed River. It’s all part of a city project to install new sewer and water pipelines through the area.

The technology is so advanced, and so sophisticated, it’s turned a six-week drilling project into a six-month one, and made life pretty much unbearable for everyone who uses the park.

The bonus is, this cutting-edge technology was pegged back in December as costing about $2 million to do roughly 200 metres of drilling, compared to the $600,000 that traditional open-pit construction would cost. Now that this, uh, faster option has turned into a much slower one, who knows what this will cost the city.

When it was started last fall, the city admitted it had never used so-called micro-tunneling for a project so large before, but stressed that the benefits would far outweigh the extra expense. Here’s betting there’s more than a few people who would take issue with that claim now.

“It’s a really neat technology and it’s not something we use very often — again, because it is more expensive and because it is a specialized area,” city engineer Kealy Dedman told this newspaper in December. “But in this particular case, the benefits well offset the costs.”

Since the drilling project needs low river water to operate, the folks at the Grand River Conservation Authority can’t close the Wellington Dam, so the local kayak and canoe rental business is up a muddy creek without a paddle. So, too, are the people at the 177-year-old Guelph Lawn Bowling Club, which needs higher river water to feed its parched lawn.

If you were hoping to play baseball at the only diamond in Riverside Park, you can forget that also, since there’s a mountain of gravel sitting in the outfield as the pipeline project drags on and on. Further down the line, the beach volleyball courts along Wellington Street have been compromised, too.

Never mind that phase 1 of the project, which stretches from the volleyball courts to the east side of the Speed River, was supposed to be done by March, with landscaping to be completed in early spring.

The problem, we’re told, is that the drilling operation has hit bedrock. Which is kinda hard. It’s also why city engineers went with the drilling option in the first place, instead of using the normal open-pit approach, which would have closed Gordon Street for a few months.

I don’t know about you, but I’m just glad our park is finally getting used the way it was always intended: to make a pile of dirt and create a ton of noise. Drill on, micro-tunneller, drill on.

Greg Mercer is a Guelph-based writer whose column appears every third Saturday. He can reached at greg_mercer@hotmail.com and past columns can be read at gregmercer.ca. Follow him on Twitter at @MercerRecord.

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