Sanitary sewer reconstruction and other road work on St. George Street West in Fergus means a large maple tree has to come down.
Those who live around the tree aren’t happy about the loss of nature in their neighbourhood.
Stefanie Ly, whose house the tree sits in front of on a boulevard, said she’s grown attached to it despite only living there for a year.
“It’s just such a beautiful thing to see the sunrise behind the tree every morning and you’re looking out over the town and I can’t imagine staring into a parking lot without this tree there,” Ly said.
Construction work on St. George Street West, from Provost Lane to St. David Street North, includes full replacement of existing sanitary sewer and services as well as new surface asphalt the full width of the roadway.
A letter sent to residents from Triton Engineering states a tree condition assessment on the large sugar maple tree concluded it will not withstand the construction activity and it will be removed prior to the start of construction in June.
“It has been concluded that due to the tree’s condition assessment and its proximity to your sanitary service that it will not safely withstand the construction that will take place, nor is it a good candidate to recover from the disturbance it will endure,” the letter states.
Mathieu Alain, urban forestry project manager for Centre Wellington, said via email there will be two compensation street trees planted that will not be in conflict with underground utilities and require future removal.
“I completely understand that the work needs to be done but I feel like in some ways it’s cut first, ask questions later,” Ly said. “I feel I would be more supportive to consider saving the tree and then keeping an eye on it. If it is actually dying, then take it down.”
Other neighbours have told Ly the tree is 100-years old and contributes to the urban canopy providing shade and oxygen for the community.
She said neighbourhood kids have began to decorate it with signs and others have turned it into a “clootie tree” which is a Scottish pagan tradition bringing good luck and protection.
Daniela Senkl, who lives nearby on Provost Lane, has started a petition asking the township to stop cutting down trees with the St. George Street tree as inspiration.
“It’s not something that you can just take down an old tree and replace with a new one; it wouldn’t have the same qualities,” Senkl said.
She noted the large tree provides a lot of shade helping to keep the area cool, especially considering a number of parking lots located near the tree.
“Large trees provide so much shade and there’s lots of parking lots in the area around that tree and pavement heats up a lot during summer months,” Senkl said. “The trees are really important for that and small trees can not bring the same benefit for that.
Senkl said it’s not just an emotional attachment to the tree but the impact it has on the environment and carbon emissions.
“We are responsible for future generations and living in a way that allows future generations to live in the same manner and then we are taking down healthy trees in a state of climate emergency, I think that’s pretty upsetting,” Senkl said.