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About 20 years ago, for some reason, decorative concrete spheres became very popular in the Vancouver area. For a couple of years, we cast spheres into post caps, for public artworks in local parks and as bollards to stop vehicular traffic from entering into pedestrian areas.
The largest sphere we made was installed at the old Oakalla prison site, which was turned into a townhouse complex after the prison was shut down. At 71″ in diameter, this large concrete ball weighed in at a whopping 16,800 lbs.
I don’t know if that sphere is still there, but I imagine that if they ever had to remove it, there would have been some nervous crane operators wondering what would happen if it got away from them. With the site being on a hill in Burnaby, I remember our truck driver, Dan Whalley, commenting that if the thing got away from him going up the hill, he would “Take the tags off the truck and head for the border!” We had a good laugh – and I then nervously checked his straps for the third time, hoping that he was just kidding. We did make it site with the big ball – and many others of varying sizes, but this one made me nervous.
We actually did have a sphere come off a truck once. Fortunately, it was a lot smaller, though. However, at 18″ in diameter, it still weighed in at 275 lbs, and the homeowner whose garage it went into wasn’t too happy.
We had made one too many spheres for Andy Livingstone Park in Vancouver – adjacent to Rogers Arena – and so the extra ball went into our waste pile. One of the local excavating contractors was looking for some free fill and we happily obliged by giving him our waste concrete, and sand from our sandblasting pit. It was fairly clean fill, but with the odd broken chunk of concrete in it, we couldn’t normally hand it off as filler. In this case, it wouldn’t matter – why? I’m not sure; maybe 20 years ago junk fill was okay?
Any way, our intrepid excavating contractor picked up a few loads of the free fill and off he went up the hill in West Vancouver (we still had our plant in North Van at the time)
Bumping along his way into the British Properties, the nearly 300 lb concrete ball with a nine-inch piece of rebar sticking out of it, rolled off the truck and downhill into someone’s garage. It made quite a mess.
Fortunately, nobody was hurt, however, this served a very good lesson to us. We no longer give away our waste as one big pile – sand here, and concrete over there!
We also try to make sure that our balls are secured when they leave the yard.
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