Corbett calls for Fredericton tree bylaw, Officers’ Square restart

Our Executive Director, Lois Corbett, told reporters this week that Fredericton city council needs to scrap its controversial plan to overhaul Officers’ Square and start the process from scratch.

She also called on the city to create a new tree bylaw to prevent a similar fiasco from happening again.

Corbett spoke with Terry Seguin of CBC Information Morning Fredericton (read CBC’s web story from the interview here) and Katrina Clarke of the Fredericton Daily Gleaner on Monday, July 16.

She says city council should take interested people and groups  — including members of the public, city staff, and architects and designers — on a walking tour along Queen Street to Officers’ Square for an outdoor open session, where people can look around and talk about what they enjoy about the space and which parts need to be preserved.

The city faced immediate backlash from the public when it was reported in May that renovation plans for the square included cutting down 19 of the large, mature trees in the historic space.

Council recently put the $8.9-million project on hold after steady pushback from the public, including a petition signed by more than 9,000 people calling for council to find a way to save the trees and preserve historical elements in the square, such as the 19th century iron fence.

While Corbett says she is sympathetic to planners who may not have realized the backlash they would receive, she says the city hasn’t communicated well since the beginning of the redesign.

Clear communication is essential for smooth sailing on any project – but it takes two to tango. What city council needs to do, Corbett says, is call on residents to submit their ideas and produce drawings that park consultants can work with, to make meaningful upgrades while preserving the historically cherished features of Officers’ Square.

She also says council could go one step further to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“One additional move they could make is not just redraw their plans for Officers’ Square, but go the policy distance and introduce a new bylaw that would make decisions about when trees were to be cut down for future development more carefully considered and protected over time,” she told the CBC.

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