The New Brunswick government has given the City of Fredericton approval to proceed with the revitalization of Officers’ Square – with the concerns of conservationists in mind.

Presently hosting festivals and cultural events, Officers' Square was formerly a military hub where British and Canadian armies stationed centuries ago.  

“We went through a multi-year process where there was public engagement at each level,” says City of Fredericton director of planning and development, Ken Forrest. “There was the city centre plan, the Garrison District master plan, and then we were moving more specifically into Officers' Square.”

The latest plan for Officer’s Square was revised in November to protect large mature trees surrounding the building – a concern raised by the ‘Save Officers' Square’ movement. Conservationist, Tracy Glynn, says the city’s approach to the revitalization project should serve as a lesson for municipal planners.

“The way that it was packaged, it wasn't clear to people that trees were going to be cut down; and then that led to outcry,” says Glynn. “I think if that information was brought to the public in a much more clear way at the beginning, we could have avoided some of the heartache.”

Costs for the revitalization project haven’t been released yet, but with the necessary heritage and archeological permits granted, work will begin in September – with the focus being the square's perimeter and establishing new entrances.

“It's going to be the new stairway access on Queen, westward toward the corner,” says City of Fredericton project engineer, Greg McCann. “With the old post office, 527 Queen Street, to facilitate construction – the excavation is going to be rather wide.”

McCann notes residents should be prepared for less walking and driving space on Queen Street as it will be reduced to one lane at times.

Meanwhile, Glynn, who co-authored the new edition of Great Trees of New Brunswick is happy to see the trees remain untouched.

“When people think of Fredericton, they think of the elm trees, they think of the beautiful Wolastoq River that flows through the city – these are part of our natural heritage that we really need to preserve,” says Glynn.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jessica Ng