Wood chips crunch underneath Marianne Cerilli’s sandals as she steps over the stumps of mature, self-seeding maples that once stood on the west boundary of Omand Park.
In March, Manitoba Hydro removed 35 trees underneath and next to a power line running parallel to park property. The company has now reached an agreement with the city to provide compensation for stump removal and replanting.
Four trees — deemed to be dead or in poor condition — were not included in Manitoba Hydro’s deal with the city, the details of which have not yet been made public.
Manitoba Hydro removed an estimated 150–200 additional trees on company property just outside the park.
Cerilli, chair of the Wolseley Residents’ Committee, and others have publicly mourned the loss of the trees — some of which were believed to be more than 50 years old.
As Cerilli stands on the bike path next to the site, two park-goers greet her and express their outrage over the clear-cutting.
Cerilli said the site’s atmosphere is "night and day" without the trees. There’s no longer a buffer between the park and a busy road and electrical station nearby.
"It was much more appealing and beautiful when there were trees between all of those things and the park," she said. "Now it’s completely open."
The maples that previously lined the ditch were encroaching on a 12 kV power line and were on track to reach the higher-capacity, 66 kV lines, said Bruce Owen, Manitoba Hydro’s media relations officer.
"As tree contact is one of the leading causes of outages, sufficient vegetation has to be removed to ensure adequate clearances to poles and power lines for reliability and public safety," Owen said.
Pruning wasn’t an option, he added. The company said if it chose to trim the trees, very little would remain of the canopy.
Cerilli and other residents disagree with the decision, stating Manitoba Hydro’s actions were rash and put corporate interest before the environment.
In the days following the tree removal, Lisa Naylor, NDP MLA for Wolseley, penned a letter to Manitoba Hydro’s CEO Jay Grewal detailing habitat loss and elevated noise levels impacting residents living near the park.
The company forwarded the letter to the Minister of Crown Services, Naylor said, adding neither party has responded to her concerns.
The city’s forestry department plans to conduct a mapping assessment of the entire park to ferret out other areas to tackle in the restoration plan.
Cerilli hopes the city will consider how people use the park when replacing the lost vegetation in the area. She’d like to see fruit trees, native plants and community gardens added to a riparian zone along the bike path just west of the train crossing.
"We think there’s more planting that could be done there to keep the topsoil and to use the space better," she said. "The riverbank erosion is very bad there."
Cerilli would also like to see more Saskatoon bushes lining the pathways where Manitoba Hydro removed the maples.
WRA invites community members to join a neighbourhood clean-up on Saturday, May 29. Details will be available on the group’s Facebook page.
The Metro community journalist
Katlyn Streilein is the community journalist for The Metro.