Update on Pioneer Square Improvements


Improvements underway at Pioneer Square, a City park and cemetery located adjacent to Christ Church Cathedral, were halted earlier this week when human remains were unearthed near the corner of Meares and Quadra. Asphalt was being removed to make way for a new pathway when human remains were identified at a very shallow depth of 46 centimetres (18 inches).  It is unexpected to find remains at such a shallow depth.

Under the guidance of an archaeologist, crews are able to continue to remove asphalt, provided there is no disturbance of the base soil underneath. The archaeologist has also indicated that trench work can continue along Quadra Street without risk of impacting the larger site. An archaeologist will remain on site during the work.

Pioneer Square Improvements

The improvements are based on extensive community input the City of Victoria received during the development of the Pioneer Square Management Plan, adopted by City Council in April.

The plan's primary vision is to preserve and enhance the rich historic value of the park's cemetery while maintaining a park space that suits the needs of the surrounding community. Known as the “old burying ground”, Pioneer Square served as a cemetery from 1855 to 1873 and as a City park since 1908. It features mature trees and plantings and is home to close to 1,300 interments, marked by a number of heritage gravestones and bench tombs.

Improvements will include the repair and preservation of eight tombstones situated throughout the park, in addition to the group of tombstones located at the back of the park. As these stones have been identified to be in better condition than others, they will be easier to preserve. The remaining tombstones and bench tombs in the park will be preserved as joint fundraising efforts with community partners arise.

The park's cracked asphalt pathways will be replaced and widened where needed to increase accessibility for wheelchairs, strollers and scooters. The pathways will also be lifted in areas to minimize root damage to surrounding trees. Existing benches, lighting and garbage bins will be replaced with new stylized furnishings that better reflect the park's history.

An arborist's report identified five, high-maintenance, invasive Holly trees located at the back of the park that required removal. One English yew situated at the rear of the park also needed to be removed to address the community's safety concerns. These trees were removed earlier this week and will be replaced with a new evergreen hedge by the end of the year.

The park will be closed to the public starting Monday, September 9 to accommodate tombstone work and pathway construction. The work is expected to continue for several weeks and signs will be posted. Construction will be scheduled in such a way to enable Remembrance Day ceremonies at the park's cenotaph to take place.

Partially closing a section of the 900 Block of Rockland Avenue between Vancouver and Quadra Streets is also identified in the management plan as a means to create a new greenway (pathway) for pedestrians and cyclists downtown. The partial closure also supports the City's Greenways Plan. A year-long partial road closure will be piloted starting later this fall. The community will have opportunities to learn more and provide feedback at information sessions and to participate in an online survey.

Learn more.