New Brunswick

Pressure mounts to save 19 trees that will be cut down in Officers' Square

A development that will force 19 trees to be cut down at Officers' Square will continue as planned, the mayor of Fredericton says.

Close to 100 people protested against new development at Monday night's council meeting

People gathered outside Fredericton City Hall on Monday to voice concerns over the city's plan to cut down 19 trees in Officers' Square. This was the second rally in three days. (Gary Moore/CBC)

A development that will force 19 trees to be cut down at Officers' Square will continue as planned, Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien says.

But after a city council meeting Monday night, O'Brien said he also plans to consult with staff to "dig deep" for a way to save some of the trees.

And time is running out. 

"Is there a way to save a couple trees?… I can't promise that, but I know they'll be looking hard to see if there's an opportunity." 

The removal coincides with a planned revitalization of Officers' Square in the next four years. Most of the trees that will be cut down are beside the wall along Officers' Square, and vary in age.

Before the council meeting, a crowd gathered on the steps of City Hall to voice concerns about losing the trees. 

Irresponsible representation

Inside, frustration continued to grow throughout the evening.

When council denied a motion to add an item to the agenda — which would have delayed work to the heritage site — Lily Smallwood shouted from the upper level, "irresponsible representation" to the mayor and council.  

A development that will force 19 trees to be cut down at Officers' Square will continue as planned, the mayor of Fredericton says. 0:53

At the same time, close to 100 other people erupted with anger, forcing the mayor and council to clear the chamber for several minutes.

Lily Smallwood and her son James Gwathmey were in the gallery during Monday's council meeting. (Gary Moore/CBC)

"We weren't asking them to make a decision right now, we were asking them to talk about it," said Smallwood, who attended the city council meeting with her son, James Gwathmey.

The public was hoping council would reconsider its decision to cut down the 19 trees at Officers' Square in coming months.

This was the second gathering of its kind from the public in just a few days.

Over the weekend, dozens of residents gathered in Officers' Square to protest against the city's plans to chop down the trees.

Not enough public consultation

At the meeting, Coun. Kate Rogers made the request to give city staff a chance to re-examine the construction plans and look at ways to save the trees. 

Rogers said not enough public consultation was done on the Officers' Square project.

Coun. Kate Rogers said the public wasn't properly consulted on plans to cut down the trees in Officers' Square. (Gary Moore/CBC)

If council agreed to halt the project, she said, it would take staff only two or three weeks to consider alternative plans that could save the trees. 

"To me it's our responsibility as elected officials to respond to the interests of our constituents," Rogers said to reporters after the meeting.

"There was clearly a desire amongst our constituency to have a further discussion on this."

O'Brien said he doesn't know what day the first tree is scheduled to come down, but said it will be soon. 

About the Author

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

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