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The federal government announced $68,500 in funding to help Oxford, N.S., assess a sinkhole that first appeared in July 2018.Sean Whalen Photography/The Canadian Press

Ottawa has announced funds to help a small Nova Scotia town assess just how dangerous its famous sinkhole might be.

The sinkhole first appeared at an Oxford, N.S., park last July as a hole the size of a dinner plate.

But by last November it had grown larger than 32.6 metres by 38.7 metres, swallowing up trees and picnic benches and drawing curious onlookers to the small town of about 1,000.

A Tim Hortons cafe and a gas bar are among businesses across the street from Oxford Lions Park and one of the region’s largest employers, Oxford Frozen Foods, is nearby.

On Friday, the local Liberal MP, Bill Casey, announced $68,500 in funding for a survey through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Innovative Communities Fund.

The geophysical and geotechnical testing will identify the boundaries and structure of the sinkhole, and help determine any risks related to other potential sinkholes in the area.

“This investment will help the Town of Oxford better understand the potential risks posed by this natural hazard. It is critical to properly analyze, assess and address any issues it may cause,” Casey said in a statement.

Surveys will be completed along all sides of the sinkhole, and down to about 20 metres below the ground.

Town spokesperson Linda Cloney said Friday the sinkhole appears to have grown a little over the winter, but it hasn’t been formally measured.

“You can see some rounding – it’s noticeable to the eye that it has grown. You can see a (new) lean of a tree close to the bank of the sinkhole,” she said.

The sinkhole is filled to the top with water, but it remains stable.

“There’s no movement, no swirling. It’s very still,” she said.

She said the funding allows the research to go ahead, including taking new measurements of the sinkhole and checking for new cracks in the park’s parking lot.

Oxford Mayor Patricia Stewart said the survey to determine what is beneath the sinkhole gives the town, which calls itself the wild blueberry capital of Canada, a tremendous feeling of relief.

“It is imperative that we get these answers as this situation has heavily impacted the Oxford and Area Lions Club along with the entire community, and has created uncertainty around public safety and the stability of critical infrastructure in the town,” she said in a statement.

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