NEARLY two dozen mature trees in Charleswood that were destroyed during the destructive journey of a large display home in August will be replaced next spring.
The City of Winnipeg confirmed the replanting timeline to address the destruction of 23 Siberian elms.
Coun. Kevin Klein, who represents the area, said the exact number, type and location of replacement trees could differ from the original canopy. He expects many residents will be relieved to learn the Roblin Boulevard median won’t be left empty.
"There’s a soft spot in everybody’s heart in Charleswood for trees. That’s why they come here, that’s why they chose to live here," said the Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood councillor. "We didn’t lose (these trees) naturally, they were taken down… The community was wronged."
In the early hours of Aug. 7, a building transport company began moving the display home from a spot near Roblin Boulevard and Scotswood Drive. The structure was too wide to avoid hitting mature trees along the Roblin median.
Winnipeg Police Service said its officers arrived to provide a scheduled escort around 7 a.m. and discovered 17 mature trees had been cut down. Police said officers halted the move and arrested the vehicle’s driver, who faces a charge of mischief over $5,000.
City forestry staff later determined another six elms had to be cut down.
A second leg of the home transfer took place Aug. 11, when the home struck an overhead sign on the Perimeter Highway at the Wilkes Avenue overpass.
The city hasn’t received compensation for the downed trees, said city spokesperson Ken Allen.
"The city is continuing to explore options for recovery, which may or may not include initiating court action against the party responsible for the damage caused by the house move," said Allen, in an emailed statement.
Unfortunately, the tree replacement plan comes just as the city prepares to remove another 109 median trees, due to disease and other damage that is not related to the home transfer. Klein said more than half of those trees are in Charleswood.
Allen said those trees are "either dead or in advanced decline" and are expected to be removed this year.
"There are no immediate plans to replace these trees," he noted.
An advocate to protect and enhance Winnipeg’s urban canopy welcomed news about the Charleswood replanting but is concerned tree replacements are occurring on a much slower timeline.
"We’re in a situation in this city where only one in five trees is getting replaced… While it’s terrific that these (particular) median trees are being replaced so quickly, I think the main reason is because it got so much press and people were so appalled (that someone) would just take down (that many) trees to move a house," said Erna Buffie of Trees Please Winnipeg.
A Winnipeg urban forestry report notes the city replanted just 19 per cent of the trees it removed in 2020, while an average of 9,000 trees are removed annually due to natural death, storm damage and disease.
Buffie said all governments must invest in the urban canopy now because trees offer critical benefits that are too often overlooked.
"They absorb storm water, they reduce air pollution, they sequester and store carbon… We have to stop looking at trees as this nice little aesthetic feature of our city and start seeing them as essential as roads and sewers in our infrastructure," she said.
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.