20 January 2015

New Brunswick Museum's park expansion bid meets opposition

Saint John's Riverview Park has a monument, trees planted in honour of soldiers who died in the Boer War

CBC News

Opposition is growing to the New Brunswick Museum’s request to drill test holes in a Saint John park to see if it could be home to a $40-million expansion project.

Museum officials were in front of Saint John city council on Monday night to seek permission to begin preliminary work to see if a section of Riverview Park could be used for the new collections centre.

The museum is under a tight timeline after learning the existing Douglas Avenue facility is unsafe.

But that is not convincing some neighbours and historians that the park is an appropriate site for the new building.

Harold Wright, a Saint John historian, said the park is a memorial to those who died in the Boer War and he does not want any more land given up.

"The Boer War was Canada's first war. These veterans are our first war veterans," Wright said.

"The battle that won the Boer War was won by the New Brunswick boys. That's why this park was established."

The park's centrepiece is a monument to the province's Boer War dead.

Mary Stokes-Reese, a neighbour, said the park’s historic significance goes beyond that monument.

"The actual park is the memorial, and trees in the park have been planted in memory of specific soldiers," she said.

Historians and neighbours are upset about the museum’s proposal and city councillors are seeking more information before they will consider the request to drill test holes.

Coun. Bill Farren asked that the decision to allow the museum’s contractors bore test holes in the park be postponed until more information about the site is produced.

"I know that myself and a lot of other people are going to be upset in this community and country," Farren said.

A majority of councillors agreed with Farren on Monday night.

The information they want to review includes any legal protections placed on the park, which was paid for by the women's Christian Temperance League to honour seven soldiers who died in the war.

City staff have also been requested to bring back more information to council about the park's history, which opened in 1902.