A Winnipegger is questioning why a tree that once shaded her home will take several years to replace, especially as the city ramps up separate tree-planting efforts.
Patricia Gagnon said a large ash tree on the public boulevard in front of her home was destroyed by an August 2016 storm and has been missed ever since.
"It (added) so much to the whole environment in front of us. It was a wonderful shade tree," said Gagnon.
She said a city crew promptly removed all but the stump shortly after the storm, and she first expected the tree would be replaced in about two years.
Instead, 311 officials eventually told her the tree’s replacement would come in July 2022. The city has since revised that date to sometime in 2021.
Gagnon said she felt the two-year wait was reasonable, due to the size of the city and demands on its forestry branch, but believes the extended timeline is excessive. She said 311 staff have been helpful with follow-up queries, yet she fears her request is at risk of being forgotten.
"Another (year) wait, I think, is really out of line for a new tree," she said.
Gagnon said she supports the city’s urban forestry goals, including a One Million Tree Challenge that aims to have a million new trees planted in Winnipeg by around 2040.
However, she’s urging the city to focus more on protecting and replacing existing trees as well.
"That (challenge is) a wonderful project, it’s really great, it’s very worthy. But, I’m thinking: ‘What about… our tree?’" she said.
In an emailed statement, City of Winnipeg spokeswoman Julie Horbal Dooley said the most recent 2021 date to replace the tree meets a five-year city standard for the service.
"In terms of reforestation, we are constantly attempting to improve processes and decrease wait times. However, service levels are dictated by the increasing needs in the management of our urban forest, budget allocation, and resulting resource availability," wrote Horbal Dooley.
"As a result of the winter storm event in October 2019 (that damaged and destroyed thousands of trees) and the significant increase in Dutch elm disease removals over the past five years, the tree replacement schedules have been extended to up to five years from the time a tree is removed to the time it is replaced."
City crews removed 8,588 trees from public and private property in 2019, with 5,657 due to Dutch elm disease. During the same year, the city planted 1,434 trees in parks and on boulevards.
An additional 3,700 trees have been planted through the One Million Tree Challenge so far.
Horbal Dooley noted the city won’t prioritize replacement over tree removals to speed up the addition of new trees. That’s because sick, damaged or diseased trees could pose a risk to the rest of the urban forest, as well as people and property, if they’re not promptly removed, she wrote.
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.