Until Friday August 3, forty tents claimed public space at College Brook. It’s a tiny green-space in Fredericton, home to one of New Brunswick’s oldest maple trees. In the tents, seasoned young activists and neighbourhood residents lived side by side.

Then the protest ended with a city injunction, two arrests, and about ten activists blocking the bulldozers primed to start digging.

Under normal circumstances, the group of wealthy landowners and student protesters probably wouldn’t have camped out together. But when the city threatened to develop and pave over the local parkland without consultation, a new kind of alliance was formed.

Ten years ago, Fredericton changed College Brook by building a storm sewer there as a means to protect the St. John River from potential flood run-off. Now, the issue is residential development. The idea is to build an apartment complex to help deal with the growing number of information technology workers moving to the city.”You won’t find anyone in this province who’s more concerned about protecting green-space as I am, but as far as I’m concerned, this issue is closed,” said Mayor Les Hull in a phone interview.

Public-school student Tom Cheney cornered the mayor at the city market, demanding to know how many signatures were needed before the city would listen to protesters. Hull finally said 5,000. Later, he said, “Look, I was just humouring a 12-year-old boy.”

Park space will be affected if the development plan goes through. More upsetting, say those who object to the proposal, is that the city flatly refused to listen to the group’s demands for a twelve-month moratorium, which would allow the area to be studied by stream experts.

“City council’s arrogance galvanized people who were upset that council was having a closed-door meeting and ignoring requests from concerned citizens,” said Lloyd Salomone of a neighbourhood association.

As a result, Salomone and the other local homeowners set up what they called Tent City as a two-day protest. Then the student-based Coalition of Fredericton Activists (COFA) got behind the project, and the group collectively decided to maintain the camp until police broke it up.

Activist Mike Wood was pleasantly surprised by the alliance he saw with the action. “They [residents] weren’t impressed by how the end of Tent City played out. We had experienced state and police repression before, like in Quebec City,” Wood said. “But a lot of these people weren’t used to being ignored by the authorities. They’re used to having a lot of say in the community. They didn’t at College Brook, and they were mad.”

“We couldn’t have sustained Tent City without the COFA kids. They were a bright spot here, and were so enlightened and have more on the ball than people would give them credit for,” Salomone said.

While Solomone has learned to value the activists, Wood has learned the value of public opinion in a traditionally conservative city like Fredericton. “I’ve learned not to judge people just because they’re wearing GAP or driving a BMW. Strangers from all over the city kept coming to Tent City with food and showing interest in the issue,” he said.

“Without Tent City, I wouldn’t have gotten to know them. And without us, maybe they wouldn’t have learned that you truly can fight city hall.”

Participants admit to initial tensions between the residents and activists in Tent City, but say that the process of building a community and offering nature walks and on-site information sessions for the public helped them focus on what mattered.

The debate as to whether College Brook is a natural habitat to be protected or simply a toxic ditch worth paving over continues, but so too do the nightly marches to city hall.

Heather Robinson, twenty-five, is a writer and feminist activist from New Brunswick.