The rock samples at RockWalk Park in Haileybury may be billions of years old, but even ancient boulders need a facelift once in a while.
A volunteer group dubbing itself the RockWalk Park Committee, along with Northern College, is eager to rejuvenate the park, which has suffered from neglect in recent years. The vision includes an $800,000 facelift, the addition of new features, and industry sponsorship to pay for it all.
Lending a hand to the effort is Ron Lauzon, owner of Picturesque Stone, who will contribute his experience and expertise creating precision-cut images into stone bricks, plaques and monuments. Lauzon sees the new RockWalk Park as a testament to the contributions of mining to the North and across Canada.
“We really want to help them bring this park and this information on the map as a tourist destination first and foremost,” he said. “And yet we want to bring all the history and culture of mining and everything that’s been done since mining began.”
The current park features massive boulders of various rock samples placed along a walkway, with interpretive signs explaining their significance to the Canadian mining landscape. Proposed additions include a new sign, a sundial made of drilling rods, a water feature composed of plow disks, a reflexology walking path, a Zen garden, and an outdoor fitness area.
To fund the restoration and expansion of the park, the committee is seeking sponsorship from industry partners. According to plans, names and logos could be engraved on the bricks of the walkway, the boulders themselves, or on park seating. Funding will also be set aside to ensure future maintenance and upkeep of the park.
Modern technology will be incorporated into the plan to link it to the digital age. Barcodes will be embedded into the rock samples, which visitors can scan and read with their smartphones. The barcode will then connect the viewer to information about the company, its history, and its role in the mining industry.
Sponsorship opportunities can be mutually beneficial, Lauzon believes: the project gets funded, while the companies get some promotion. But he also sees it as helping to shape the legacy left by the industry in Canada.
“It’s the ability to have all this work with the sponsors to help pay for it, but at the end of the day, the sponsors also benefit from this well-maintained, landscaped stone perspective in an outdoor medium,” he said. “It just brings pride and community and it shows what’s done.”
This isn’t the first such project Lauzon has been involved in; he contributed his expertise to the Harder 4 Carter campaign, which raised $400,000 towards the new Carter Antila Memorial Skateboard Park, located at the New Liskeard waterfront.
A self-described “shop dog,” Lauzon has spent the last 35 years honing his craft, first through his landscape construction company, Lauzon Landscaping, and more recently through ThunderMen Inc. and its offshoot, Picturesque Stone. Lauzon can recreate patterns or original images in just about any form of natural or manufactured stone.
As the restoration project picks up steam, the volunteer committee plans to set up a website. Lauzon said a number of companies are already on board, and the committee is accepting both financial contributions and in-kind donations, such as new rock samples.
“Mining is a big part of Canada, in everything we do,” he said. “This park is really everything that is and what that’s going to turn out to be. And then it’ll be a really unique tourism landmark, a must-see when (visitors) are going through.”
If the new park concept is successful, Lauzon said he can see the template being applied to other industries, such as forestry or farming, by other municipalities around the North.