The City of Fredericton is moving ahead with the removal of five trees from Officers’ Square, so that construction can continue along St. Anne’s Point Drive.
A special council meeting was held Thursday, with council voting to move forward with construction after provincial approval was given by the Department of Transportation this week.
Fredericton resident Christy Rust started the “Save the Trees in Officers’ Square” citizens group. She says it’s frustrating to see the trees being removed, and feels there’s a lack of communication over what will happen to the rest of the trees.
“It’s disappointing, and I had hoped that the minister of Heritage and Culture would step in at this point and stop what was happening,” Rust said.
Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien agreed to stop construction on the square more than a week ago, but that doesn’t apply to the five trees that are being removed because of the work being done on St. Anne’s Point Drive.
Sean Lee, sssistant director of engineering operation for the city, says two of the trees were cut down on Friday, and the other three are going to be replanted in another area.
Councillor Bruce Grandy says the meeting was called after concerns were raised by the contractor working on the road.
“The contract came to a standstill, so decisions had to be made,” Grandy said. “The contractors been sitting there waiting to get at this work and finish it and try and get this road open without penalty structure to us and so we did get the permit, it came back from Minister Fraser…and basically it outlined what the parametres were.”
Grant said the city has to reinstate the wall. The province also requires them to plant 10 new trees that are as large in size as possible.
“Right now those trees, the present trees that are being removed are less than 20 centimetres in width, and these trees coming back in will be a lot more mature, so they’ll be more substantial,” Grandy said.
Resident Beth Biggs was at the meeting and feels there should have been more discussion over the decision to remove the trees.
“The biggest tree that was cut down early this morning actually was no where near the well, so for the city to say that they had to remove that tree because of the tree roots were in the wall is completely wrong,” Biggs said.
Lee said the reason the trees had to be removed isn’t because their roots interfere with the removal of the current wall, but because the new wall will be higher for safety reasons ,which requires having more substantial footings that go deeper into the ground.
“As we’re doing the work, what happens is the footings for the new wall impact the tree roots and the grow zone or the root zone of the trees so moving ahead we wanted to be able to remove the trees so we could put the new wall in,” Lee said.
Lee said a median will be going between the lanes on St. Anne’s Point Drive to improve safety for vehicles coming around the curve, which means more space is needed for the road.
He said retaining wall will be built to “modern standards” but will have a “decorative facade.”
“The current wall doesn’t really have a footing. It’s essentially a rubble wall that just sits on the ground and goes up, so the new foundation will actually be deeper and wider than the current one, that’s so we can have a strong wall that won’t be falling over or getting damaged very easily,” Lee said.
A meeting will be held on June 26 at the Delta Hotel in Fredericton where city staff, developers and councillors will be available to listen to presentations from concerned residents.
Anyone who wants to present their concerns needs to register with the city clerk by Friday June 22.