The unanticipated discovery of human remains during reconstruction work at Pioneer Square Park will cost the City of Victoria at least $62,000, according to city officials.
Crews uncovered a human bone on Sept. 11, less than a half-metre below an asphalt pathway that was being removed. Since then, another three bones have been uncovered at surprisingly shallow depths during pathway and lighting upgrading, said Kate Friars, director of parks.
“All of (the human remains) have since been in the hands of the archeologists,” she said.
Provincial archeologists have been conducting onsite work since mid-September and have removed and catalogued the bones. It hasn’t yet been determined when the human remains will be returned to the site, nor how they will be reburied.
The majority of aesthetic work in the park, which includes the restoration of grave markers, the removal of some invasive trees and replanting of native foliage, is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 11, Friars said.
“Given the weather’s improved somewhat, we’ve been making great strides,” she said.
A planned pilot street closure of Rockland Avenue between Quadra and Vancouver streets is also still being negotiated with leaders at Christ Church Cathedral, who rely on the street to access one of its parking lots, she said.
The park’s facelift is budgeted to cost $762,000, with about half that amount being spent this year.
The additional archeology costs will be absorbed into the city’s capital budget and reported back to council at the end of the fiscal year, Friars said.
“We won’t know specifically until the end of the year (how it impacts the parks budget),” she said.
Pioneer Square was used as the city cemetery between 1855 and 1873. There are an estimated 1,300 mostly unmarked human remains buried within the park.