Nova Scotia

Backhoe uncovers history near Fortress of Louisbourg

A former Fortress of Louisbourg archaeologist is concerned with how Parks Canada is constructing a new walking trail near the site.

Louisbourg archaeologist says care needed on new trail development where new discovery made

A former Fortress of Louisbourg archaeologist is concerned with how Parks Canada is constructing a new walking trail near the site.

The trail skirts the north shore of the harbour, between the modern-day village and the fortress.

Bruce Fry was a senior archaeologist during the reconstruction of the historic site.

He said, while the fortress draws the crowds these days, this now grassy stretch of land was once the heart of the early French settlement.

Fry said back then this coastline was thick with fishing huts and flakes.

"This was a very busy area. There were fishing establishments and taverns all along this coast area."

He said, despite its history, the park started work on the site without carrying out the proper screening.

"It's very culturally rich. We know there's lots of stuff out here which is of importance to understanding the early settlement before the construction of the fortress itself. There was no updated environmental screening to my understanding, and certainly no screening of the cultural resources here. Just one day they started doing the work."

Fry said a preliminary survey of the trail site was carried out by back in the 1980s.

It's his understanding Parks Canada did not take that information into account when laying out the new walking trail. Nor did it do any updated environmental or cultural screening.

As a result, he said a backhoe preparing the ground for the trail smashed into early 18th century house foundations.

"Fairly predictably, if you send people in without any planning, then they're going to hit something and that's what's happened."

Fry said there should be an archaeologist monitoring the work. He blames cuts to Parks Canada for the way the project has unfolded.

Parks Canada defends its planning and construction of the trail.

David Ebert is the manager of cultural resources at the Fortress of Louisbourg. 

"We did have an environmental impact assessment done, by an environmental impact specialist at Parks Canada. We looked at the areas that were most sensitive, and made sure that we designed the trail in a manner that wouldn't impact cultural resources. In the areas that were less sensitive and didn't necessarily have complete information, we had an archaeologist monitoring."

Ebert said there was extensive examination of the trail before the work began by a number of staff including an archaeologist.

He said work so far has uncovered a few house foundations. 

The plan is to incorporate some of the new findings into the finished trail.


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