New Brunswick

Council meeting draws more protest to save 19 trees at Officers' Square

Another protest broke out during Monday night's city council meeting, after the fate of 19 trees in Fredericton's downtown was kept off the agenda.

Hot-button issue not up for discussion for 2nd city council meeting in a row

Beth Biggs is a member of the group, Save The Elm Trees of Officers' Square. The group was created after the city announced it would be cutting down 19 trees to revitalize the piece of land. Biggs is holding a petition of more than 5,500 signatures to save the trees. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

Another protest broke out during Monday night's city council meeting, after the fate of 19 trees in Fredericton's downtown was kept off the agenda.

A local group known as, Save The Elm Trees of Officers' Square, held another rally outside city hall. About 30 people showed up, and carried a petition with more than 5,500 signatures.

In May, the city announced its plans to cut down 19 trees in coming months at a council-in-committee meeting. 

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

For weeks, members of the public voiced concerns over the city's plan to cut down 19 trees from Officers' Square. (CBC)

The city has put off cutting down the 19 trees so that city officials can review its plans.

They're going back to its heritage, design and forestry consultants to look at every option available to move the project forward but to also save some of the trees that are there — especially the larger, beloved trees. 

Beth Biggs, a member of the protest group, said she's angry the group wouldn't be able to address council directly on Monday night.

"We feel that we've been given the runaround," she said.

Nonetheless, she said protesting will continue until the issue is resolved.

Marcus Kingston, who also participated in the protest, said it's important the trees stay where they are because of their historic value.

"If you erase these trees you're kind of erasing the heritage and the special feeling Officers' Square has," he said.

"Not just Officers' Square, all of Queen Street."

Not the 1st time 

At a city council meeting held two weeks ago, a motion was made to add an item to the agenda that would delay work to the heritage site.

When council denied the motion to add an item to the agenda, a crowd of close to 100 people became rowdy and started to protest.

Mayor Mike O'Brien speaks with people at a protest to keep the trees a few weeks ago. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

During Monday night's city council meeting, Mayor Mike O'Brien said the grievances would first have to go through a standing committee, a normal procedure in how council operates.

"In the most recent issue that took up a lot of airtime was the 'Save The Pool' and nobody addressed council on those issues, " said O'Brien

The city has put off cutting down the 19 trees so that city officials can review its plans. (CBC )

A heritage permit was approved by the province in 2016, subject to final plans and specifications for the project.

Now, the city is working on the completion of these plans, but work can't start until those final plans have been approved by the province.

No word on possible changes

The city gave employees up to four weeks to look at plans and suggest changes to Officers' Square.

O'Brien said that timeline is still accurate, but there's nothing new to report on any changes that could be coming.

Protesters wrap Officer's Square trees in blankets

NB

3 years ago
0:53
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

Some of the trees have been in Officers' Square for more than 100 years, making them a visible aspect of the city once known as, The City of Stately Elms.  

O'Brien said the public will have an opportunity to give their opinion on any potential changes to the Officers' Square plan, but did not provide a specific date.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jordan Gill

Reporter

Jordan Gill is a CBC reporter based out of Fredericton. He can be reached at jordan.gill@cbc.ca.

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