New Brunswick

Officers' Square wall to be refurbished next month as revitalization gets underway

After months of review, the City of Fredericton will carry out a small amount of work next month as a start to revitalizing Officers' Square in the city's downtown. 

Work on Fredericton's park is set to begin mid-September after Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival

Fredericton heritage activists previously called on the province to put the project on hold and review the character-defining elements of the Fredericton park. (CBC)

After months of review, the City of Fredericton will begin a small amount of work next month as a start to revitalizing Officers' Square in the city's downtown. 

Ken Forrest, director of planning and development for the city, said this short phase will include refurbishing the wall that runs along Queen Street and establishing new entrance stairs and an accessible entrance.

"Some of the smaller trees on the property that had been identified to come out, to allow other pieces to proceed, will happen," he said. 

Forrest said the city has all the permits it needs to begin work on Officers' Square in mid-September after the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival.

The city wants to add a skating rink, performance stages and a water feature, among other things, to the park under a $9.1 million revitalization project.

Residents raise concerns 

The Lord Beaverbrook statue that sits in the middle of Officers' Square will be moved to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. And the 104th Regiment monument will be moved for safe-keeping during construction.

"It will actually form a significant feature of the new entry in Officers' Square at project completion."

This is what Officers' Square in downtown Fredericton is expected to look like during winter when the revitalization project is complete. 0:57

But the project has had trouble getting off the ground, partly because of public reaction to the fate of 19 trees set to be cut down and the old wall along the square, and the potential loss of heritage and archeological resources underground, especially any important to Indigenous people.

"The city, particularly in the summer and fall of 2018, spent a lot of time listening to citizens and listening to the concerns that were raised," Forrest said.

Those concerns include protecting the large mature trees in the park, protecting any archeological resources and making sure the city consults with First Nations. 

"We have a different revitalization plan for Officers' Square that directly responds to the concerns that were raised by the community," Forrest said. 

A different plan

Recently, the city announced the project will go through an archeological impact assessment. There will also be consultations with First Nations. The large mature trees will also become "a significant part of the revitalized Officers' Square," Forrest said.

"For the work that we're doing this year, it's largely in previously disturbed soils. So that's not a significant part of this very limited phase of construction.

"As we get into the future phases of Officers' Square, which involve the bulk of the work, that's where the archeological impact assessment and the provincially facilitated Indigenous consultation will play a major role."  

The City of Fredericton plans to save eight mature trees under its revised plan for the historic downtown park. (Submitted/City of Fredericton)

He said the Indigenous consultation, which will be scheduled by the province, will take place before work resumes next spring.

Stephanie Bilodeau, a spokesperson for the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, said the purpose of an archeological impact assessment is to ensure that the information recovered from archeological sites becomes a permanent part of New Brunswick's collective heritage.

"That the archeological materials themselves will be available for future generations," she said.

The land near the St. John River was used for centuries by the Wolastoqiyik. A military compound was established there in the late 18th century, and the square was a training ground for British soldiers until 1869. Now the popular gathering space is used for entertainment, festivals and other events and is also home to a museum. 

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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