Back to the drawing board on Officers’ Square: Corbett

Fredericton City Council has hit the brakes on its plans to overhaul Officers’ Square — and good thing.

You’d think after the heartbreak so many Frederictonians experienced at the loss of so many trees during Post Tropical Storm Arthur — 10,000 gone! — council would have known a plan to intentionally cut some of the most majestic trees in the City of Stately Elms would get a pretty cold reception from the people.

The immediate public outcry to the axing of 19 big trees trees and the dismantling of historic elements like the 19th century wall left councillors and the mayor with a huge boo boo on their faces.

At the regular council meeting this week, councillors peppered staff with questions about the controversial renovation and directed them to come back with some new ideas and options for the square.

Better late than never, I guess — though the whole debacle could have been easily avoided.

It’s not the 60s anymore. Cutting down and paving over valuable greenspace — whether for a commercial development or even an outdoor skating oval — doesn’t make sense.

It’s an old fashioned approach to development and land management. And today, city planners all over the world are scrambling to fix the issues caused by these types of poor decisions made by their predecessors decades ago.

No one ever wishes New York City had paved over Central Park for more skyscrapers. I don’t think anyone has ever walked through Odell Park and thought, ‘gosh, we could have built some real nice condos here.’ And I sincerely doubt Frederictonians would look at a maimed, renovated, and shade-free Officers’ Square with anything but remorse and regret.

From the failure to communicate effectively about the project, to the details of the plan itself, we need our councillors and mayor to be forward-thinking, 21st-century leaders.

Let’s hope this is top of mind as they go back to the drawing board on Officers’ Square.

Lois Corbett is Executive Director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick

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