City halts unauthorized tree-cutting by Lansdowne work crew

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Neighbours never informed when cutting would begin on Holmwood Avenue: councillor

By Mark Brownlee, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Crews abruptly stopped chopping down trees on Holmwood Avenue mid-Tuesday morning after receiving word from city hall they were never authorized to start removing them in the first place.

The city was supposed to mail letters to the street's residents informing them of the date for the removal, said David Chernushenko, the councillor for the area.

That's why he said he was "shocked" to receive an email earlier in the day that they had already started cutting the roughly 60 trees that will be removed. He then asked city officials to call off the crews so people in the area could receive proper notice.

"Residents will choose to grieve the loss of a park," he said. "That's basically a neighbourhood's park and it has been for decades and this is a big deal to people to lose their park."

Construction workers in hard hats and bright green vests had turned off their equipment by about 11 a.m., but not before chopping down dozens of spruce, pine and other sorts of trees covering a portion of the block. They dragged them over to a nearby parking lot, leaving behind a number of stumps.

A handful of local residents, meanwhile, chained maroon and blue bikes to the work crews' equipment Tuesday morning in protest against the city's decision to remove the trees as part of the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park — the reason for the trees' removal.

Holmwood resident Martha McKeen said she and the other protesters were going to remain at the site until Mayor Jim Watson or the councillor for the area, Chernushenko, came to see them in person.

"We want this space conserved," she said in a telephone interview from the corner of Holmwood Avenue and O'Connor Street, close to where the removal was taking place. "We want to keep this space for the kids to use. They spend all of their time here in the summer and in the winter as well. It may seem like a patch of grass to some but it's not to people on this street."

Chernushenko said he planned to go visit and speak with them later in the afternoon.

To him, Tuesday's unauthorized tree cutting is just one more way the city has mistreated residents of the area in its drive to redevelop the site.

"This is already a neighbourhood that feels like the entire future of Lansdowne and the neighbourhood they know has been decided by someone else far away without taking their concerns seriously," he said.

That's why he wants the city to follow through with the proper procedure before they continued, even though a portion of the street's trees had already been cut down. The tree removal will proceed at some point, he said, but only after they mail out the letters to the residents.

He said he didn't know who was at fault — whether it was city officials, removal crews or someone else — but hoped to find out in the next few days.

The city made it clear to the construction company, EllisDon Corporation, they weren't supposed to start work until "appropriate notification had taken place," wrote Michael FitzPatrick, spokesman for the City of Ottawa in an email.

City officials are having the trees removed so they can remediate the contaminated soil underneath in preparation for moving the Horticulture building, he wrote.

-With files from Pat McGrath

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