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Residents act to protect trees of Charleswood

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It’s been over 15 years, but Elaine Hansen remembers the heartbreak of watching a giant old oak tree get chopped down near her home.

"I felt sick," says the lifelong Charleswood resident. "It affected me that badly. That tree was well over 200 years old.

"The only reason it was cut down was because the grass around it wasn’t growing thickly. It should have been protected."

And some people are working towards making sure such trees are protected in the future.

Gerry Engel of the not-for-profit Trees Winnipeg is a professional arborist living in Charleswood.
According to Engel, there are currently no regulations defining what makes a heritage tree in Winnipeg — and no permit needed to get rid of an old tree.

Engel’s organization is beginning a campaign whereby people can register heritage trees in the hopes of being able to better protect them. He recently presented some of his ideas on proper preservation of heritage trees at a public meeting organized by the Charleswood Historical Society.

"I love this area for the trees. This is what I think of when I think of Charleswood," he says, pointing to a photo of a grove of oak trees.   

Many Charleswood property developments have taken care to ensure that homes have been developed properly so as not to disturb heritage trees — especially the older developments.

Many newer developments are examples are what Engel and other Charleswood residents are keen to avoid.

Oakgrove Bay off Lannoo Drive between Roblin Boulevard and the Assiniboine River is one example. The bay was originally named for the towering oaks that pre-dated the Charleswood community.

But the changing Charleswood landscape isn’t just about trees.

Charleswood has a diverse natural habitat, including at least one natural wetland just north of Wilkes Avenue.

Dr. Gordon Goldsborough is a wetlands ecologist and environmental historian at the University of Manitoba.

According to Goldsborough, if further area developments don’t take proper care to preserve wetlands, they might go the way of many of Charleswood’s heritage trees — that is, they will disappear.

"One end result of loss of wetland is also a loss of wildlife habitat," he says. "My yard is full of deer. Those deer will move on."

One place those deer would likely end up is on the road, he says — meaning more deer-driver collisions — and an in-your-face reminder of Charleswood’s not-so-distant rural past.

Amanda Thorsteinsson is a community correspondent for Charleswood.

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