Frustrated residents are calling on the city and province to get to the root of the problem that led to the destruction of nearly two dozen mature trees in Charleswood on the weekend.
Early Saturday morning, a building moving company began to move a display home near the corner of Roblin Boulevard and Scotswood Drive. The home was too wide to clear mature trees along Roblin’s median.
When Winnipeg Police Service officers arrived to provide a previously scheduled escort for the movers at about 7 a.m. they discovered 17 trees had been cut down, allegedly by the driver of the vehicle hauling the house, police spokesman Const. Rob Carver said.
"Immediately, upon determining that the trees had been cut and linking it to this move, the move was halted and, ultimately, the driver (was) arrested," said Carver.
The driver will face a charge of mischief over $5,000. The company is not being charged, Carver said.
"It takes decades to grow trees that size and it’s very difficult for trees to grow in medians… just a really inhospitable environment." ‐ Emma Durand-Wood, Trees Please Winnipeg volunteer
The incident has sparked an outcry from many residents in the area, including Jim Wintemute, who called the loss "a shame."
"I think it’s extremely unfortunate that they decided to cut the trees down…. They (were) quite attractive," said Wintemute.
In total, the city says 23 Siberian elms were either removed or badly damaged, including six that city forestry staff later determined had to be cut down.
Police say the company involved obtained a Manitoba Infrastructure permit to move the home, but the operator failed to confirm the route was accessible for the large load, something the permit required the company to do.
In a written statement, a Manitoba Infrastructure spokesperson said permit applications for oversize and overweight loads are reviewed by the city before the province issues a permit. And the companies involved are also expected to fulfil set obligations.
"Carriers are responsible for surveying the route to ensure that the load will fit on the planned route based on the dimensions laid out in the permit and are expected to operate within permit terms," the statement said.
Wintemute said the those involved with the permits should consider adding tree-protection requirements and increasing oversight of the routes chosen.
"Government should say to them, ‘You better check out the road and make sure the Roblin situation isn’t going to happen again,’" he said.
Charges after Charleswood trees cut downClick to Expand
Posted: 5:26 PM Aug. 7, 2021
Residents of Winnipeg's Charleswood neighbourhood woke up Saturday morning to what many described as a heartbreaking scene: a street littered with debris and felled trees, allegedly cut down by a moving company after a house being trucked out of the city became stuck on Roblin Boulevard.
Now, one man is facing criminal charges, and Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood Coun. Kevin Klein is vowing to ensure that those who cut the trees on city property will be held fully responsible for the damage.
Trees Please Winnipeg also called for greater oversight to prevent such "shocking and senseless" damage in the future.
"I hope it’s not a systemic problem underlying this. It’s so baffling… it’s almost hard to have even foreseen that this would happen," said Emma Durand-Wood, a volunteer with the advocacy group.
Durand-Wood said businesses that damage mature trees should be required to pay for replacements, plus any extra work or equipment needed to help the new trees survive. She expects that could prove expensive in this case.
"It takes decades to grow trees that size and it’s very difficult for trees to grow in medians… just a really inhospitable environment," she said.
Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) said he’s determined to ensure the trees are replaced, noting the urban canopy is a key attraction for the area.
"It really is devastating to see boulevard trees cut down without a purpose…. (It) is unfathomable and people are outraged because Charleswood, of all places, is all about trees," said Klein.
Martha Barwinsky, the city’s forester, said the cost of the tree damage is still being worked out, and the city will attempt to secure compensation. Barwinsky said forestry staff were called to the scene Saturday and tried to save damaged trees.
A half-dozen trees were removed because there was no way to manoeuvre around them, such as those located near other important infrastructure including hydro poles, she said.
"After every option was exhausted, (some additional tree removal) ended up having to happen," said Barwinsky.
A city bylaw requires permission to remove a public tree, so additional city fines could still be imposed, she noted.
On Saturday, photos of the tree destruction showed a truck that belonged to Kola Building Movers Ltd. The company declined an interview request Monday.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.