As thousands of trees are being chopped down across the city in an attempt to quell Dutch elm disease, around 200 healthy ones have been stripped from Omand Park.

As thousands of trees are being chopped down across the city in an attempt to quell Dutch elm disease, around 200 healthy ones have been stripped from Omand Park.

Now members of the Wolseley Residents' Association are calling out Manitoba Hydro, which hired a private company to remove the trees — mainly healthy Manitoba maples — along the rail line on the western edge of the park at the end of February.

<p>Crews were out clearing trees along a hydro and rail line near Omand Park in Winnipeg Tuesday.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Crews were out clearing trees along a hydro and rail line near Omand Park in Winnipeg Tuesday.

"The residents have no input, have no notice, and we have no say," said Marianne Cerilli, chairwoman of the association. "And we really say that the maples could have been pruned back, and that there should be a plan now for Manitoba Hydro to take responsibility to replant this area."

A spokesman for Manitoba Hydro said the trees were chopped down, rather than pruned, in an attempt to curb costs to the crown utility.

"If we prune, we know in a few years we’ll have to come back and repeat it," he said. "This is extremely costly."

Manitoba Hydro made the decision to remove the trees after power outages during the unprecedented storm in October 2019.

“If we prune, we know in a few years we’ll have to come back and repeat it. This is extremely costly.” — A spokesman for Manitoba Hydro

"We have high-voltage lines directly over these trees that serve thousands of customers," the spokesman said. "Besides reducing unnecessary outages, we are also reducing the public safety and fire risks of a hazard tree falling and causing a downed live line in that area."

He said Hydro does not typically replant trees and has no plans to do so in this case, but would be "happy to consult on the right vegetation for the right area."

However, Cerilli said the association plans to press the issue further, including calling on the city to provide greater insight into tree removal and implementing a tree-planting volunteer program.

Manitoba Hydro made the decision to remove the trees after power outages during the unprecedented storm in October 2019.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba Hydro made the decision to remove the trees after power outages during the unprecedented storm in October 2019.

"I really feel like the city has abdicated their responsibility — they have a responsibility to have a net gain in trees... when push comes to shove, trees lose all the time," Cerilli said.

Erna Buffie, chairperson of the Wolseley association's green space committee, said the "decimation of a whole green belt" in Omand Park means natural wildlife in the area has fewer places to seek shelter.

"It’s like urban forestry is this frill, trees are this aesthetic thing that can be there or not be there," Buffie said. "They are not calculating the work that mature trees do."

Manitoba maples are native to the province, and are tolerant to drought and cold. The trees provide a food and shelter source for certain species of birds, and their flowers are a source of pollen and nectar. A Manitoba maple left to reach its full lifespan can live over 50 years.

That's all the more reason losing so many healthy trees is so disappointing, Cerilli said.

"The beauty and the refuge of the park has really been lost," she said.

The Wolseley Residents' Association plans to hold a public vigil in April to mourn the loss of the trees.

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: malakabas_

Malak Abas

Malak Abas
Reporter

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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