A tall birch tree at the Wharf, Humboldt and Government streets intersection is facing its last days.
While bike lanes are a great addition to a greener city, Community Trees Matter Network member Nancy Lane Macgregor says trees are too.
“We feel like it’s absolutely necessary that we maintain the urban forest,” Macgregor said. “It’s very significant because it’s at the centre of the old city where people come from all over the world. It’s going to just be a cement place with some sticks; it doesn’t add up, it’s not a good plan.”
The City looked long and hard at alternative plans, said Fraser Work, director of engineering and public works, but at the end of the day the tree has to go.
“When we looked at all the biggest dimensions we had to balance we realized after different looks and compromises that we wouldn’t be able to make it work,” Work said, adding that no modern-day planner would place a tree in that location.
“If you were going to put a tree in an urban environment you wouldn’t put it there; they’re all wrapped around underground infrastructure. It’s not good for the tree, or for the next person who flushes their toilet.”
One spruce tree has already been removed due to the roots wrapping around underground infrastructure, and the birch will have to go to accommodate new aspects of the intersection, including improved pedestrian safety measures.
“It’s a very busy pedestrian intersection,” Work said “Right now the sidewalk gets choked up, especially in the summer when there are people congregating around the Information Centre. People in wheelchairs or the elderly can’t get by, so you get accessibility concerns.”
Additionally, the intersection serves as a main artery for transit buses, tour buses, emergency vehicles and large trucks, all of which need room.
Work said that even if the City attempted to pave around the tree, they’d likely damage or kill it.
“The tree canopy is a mirror of the roots, so paving near it you actually could end up hurting the tree or ending its life by trying to maintain the area,” Work said. “You can’t shave it so close.”
Two oak trees will be installed near the Visitor Information Centre after renovations are over, a spot Work said is much more practical.
However, Macgregor said replacing trees isn’t an even switch.
“If you’re taking out a 50 year old tree and putting in a sapling, you’re removing all this growth that’s already a service to climate change,” she said. “It’s going to take another 45 years or so for this tree to be productive or useful. Putting in a sapling isn’t going to fix things.”
People against the removal have already placed paper hearts on the surrounding fence, and Macgregor says more efforts to protest the removal will happen.
“There’s more to think about than cement,” she said.
The tree is scheduled for removal by the end of January.
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