August 13, 2019 2:30 pm

Frederiction hopes to resume Officers’ Square project after archeological review, First Nations consultation

Officers' Square is seen on Aug. 24, 2018.

Reynold Gregor/Global News

The Officers’ Square revitalization project will be subject to both a formal archeological study and consultations with First Nations, city staff reported to council on Tuesday.

To ensure the project is protecting archeological resources, particularly any that may be important to First Nations, the city has initiated an archeological impact assessment by an independent third-party archeologist.

City officials have also agreed that there will be First Nations consultation on the project.

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READ MORE: Frederictonians ramp up efforts to stop construction on Officers’ Square

The revitalization project was announced last year, with the city planning to develop a concert venue at the site. The revitalization plan would involve removing cast-iron fencing, mature trees and a statue of Lord Beaverbrook.

The project came to a halt after a clash between special interest group Save Officers’ Square (SOS) and the city began in May 2018.

City council wanted to cut down 19 trees as part of its plans to revitalize the Garrison District and the square, but the group opposed it.

READ MORE: ‘It’s disappointing’ — City of Fredericton proceeds with removal of five trees in Officers’ Square

As a result, only five trees were taken down in July.

“The character-defining elements of the square are not being respected or maintained,” Beth Biggs, a member of SOS, told Global last year.

Many residents were also upset and angry at the removal of the cast-iron fencing.

“We have been in discussions for many months with the province, looking for ways to move the Officers’ Square project forward and build confidence that we are adequately protecting heritage assets and any yet-to-be-discovered underground archeological resources, particularly those that would be important to First Nations,” said Ken Forrest, the city’s chief planner and director of its planning and development department.

WATCH: The City of Fredericton plans to develop a concert venue at Officer’s Square. Local historians are lobbying to preserve the site.

“We acknowledge these resources, if found, are very important. We also want to ensure First Nations are brought into the process,” Forrest added. “We heard the concerns that were raised about the need to go through a thorough process, and that’s what we’ve been doing over the summer.”

The city has contracted Grant Aylesworth of Fredericton-based Stratus Consulting Inc. to conduct the archeological impact assessment and make recommendations.

According to the city, Aylesworth is a licensed New Brunswick archeologist familiar with the area’s history and settlement patterns.

Aylesworth has been examining historical and archival records of Officers’ Square and the area surrounding the site, including where soils would have previously been disturbed over the years and to what depth.

READ MORE: Fredericton to remove decorative fencing at Officers’ Square over public safety concerns

The city said in a press release that these investigations, along with a review of the province’s archeological potential model, will determine where more intensive archeological work should be conducted to protect any undiscovered underground resources.

The province of New Brunswick and the City of Fredericton, along with the University of New Brunswick, have already conducted two ground-penetrating radar studies of the Officers’ Square site.

A draft of the archeological impact assessment has also been submitted to the province’s Culture, Heritage and Archeology Division for review and further recommendations before First Nations consultations begin.

The city hopes to continue the revitalization project in phases beginning this fall once approvals for each phase have been received from the province. This would fulfil the terms of the heritage permit the city received to revitalize Officers’ Square.

The city received the permit for the project before assuming ownership of the national historic site in 2016.

—With files from Global News’ Megan Yamoah and Morganne Campbell

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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