The long awaited cleanup of Sydney’s tar ponds is one step closer to completion.

Tenders have been called for the final phase of the project: a $20-million bid to turn what was once a toxic eyesore into a smaller version of New York’s Central Park.

Remediation is already complete on a large portion of the notorious site. For those who remember what the contaminated property used to look like, the site is almost unrecognizable – and that’s exactly what a citizens’ committee wanted.

“Essentially a negative has been turned into a positive,” says Alastair MacLeod.

MacLeod chairs a liaison committee representing 15 groups. The committee’s input on development of a sprawling park at the tar ponds helped finalize a tender to turn the site into a city centerpiece.

“It’s going tobe a green island in the middle of a big city and Sydney is going to grow,” MacLeod tells CTV News.

MacLeod says he wants to park to be a place where residents can play, meet each other, walk and attend concerts. The park plan includes an amphitheatre, sports facilities, walking and cycling trails, an art park and much more.

The transformation is a small, but important part of the cleanup’s $400-million budget.

“It’s more or less the icing on the cake, as I like to term it,” says cleanup manager Donnie Burke.

As work on the park begins, the public will have access to part of the remediated site. The property was off limits for many years because of contamination from a century of steel production.

“We’ll be doing all that work with the fences down. The actual contamination has been solidified and stabilized,” says Burke. “We have a cap typical to a second generation landfill cap, so you have at least two metres of clay and protective cover on there.”

Community consultation on the future use of the tar ponds site was a far more agreeable process than the years of wrangling over how the cleanup should proceed.

The name of the park has yet to be decided.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Randy MacDonald