New Brunswick and the City of Fredericton will conduct an archeological impact assessment of the historic Officers’ Square this summer.
The National Historic Site was the centre of the military activity in Fredericton when the city was garrisoned by the British Army from 1785 to 1869 and by the Canadian Army from 1883 to 1914.
A revitalization project of the square, with the city planning to develop a concert venue at the site, was announced in 2018. But that quickly ground 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, remove cast-iron fencing and a statue of Lord Beaverbank as part of its plans, but the group opposed it. As a result, only five trees were taken down in July 2018.
Further work on the square has been delayed but is now scheduled to go ahead once the assessment is completed.
“Archeologists from our department will be involved in undertaking a series of archeological test pits throughout the interior of the square, while the city continues the wall revitalization and sandstone cladding,” said Bruce Fitch, minister of tourism, heritage and culture, in a press release on Tuesday.
Archeologists and field technicians with the province will work from early June until the end of August.
Researchers will be guided by the previously conducted surveys already carried out by ground-penetrating radar.
Should any significant artifacts be found, the province’s department of heritage and culture will work with the City of Fredericton to create a mitigation plan that will ensure they are conserved during upcoming construction.
“Officers’ Square is the heart of our downtown and we know people are looking forward to it fulfilling its full potential as a place to remember our heritage and as our main community gathering place,” said Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien in a press release.
“It has taken longer than we had originally hoped, but this collaboration with the department is a major milestone in our journey toward a revitalized Officers’ Square.”
Throughout the process, New Brunswick will “engage” with First Nations representatives and begin a formal consultation this fall.
City crews will complete work on the revitalization of the square’s wall by placing sandstone pillars, coping stones and sandstone fascia on the perimeter of the square this fall.
Sandstone will also be installed on the Queen Street central stairs and the 104th Regiment monument will be returned to its prominent location.
In the fall, contractors will complete the perimeter by adding the iconic metal railings into the balustrade.