|Many Lawrence Park residents have seen the “Save our Trees” signs on some lawns in the old North York part of Lawrence Park and may be wondering what it is all about. Please take the time to read through the information below. The issue is not as simple as it may seem.
Here are the facts:
1. The City has identified the old North York section of Lawrence Park as in need of new sewers to alleviate severe basement flooding problems and chronic poor road conditions due to excessive surface flooding.
2. Since the City would have to dig up the streets to install the new sewers and reconstruct the roads, it had to do the Environmental Assessment (EA) required by the province.
3. At a Public Information Centre meeting in November 2013, the community (those people who either took the time to attend, or sent in their comments as requested in a door-to-door mailing from the city) identified the following three priorities for the assessment:
A) reduce basement flooding,
B) improve pedestrian safety (install sidewalks), and
C) preserve trees.
These are the three priorities that the EA tried to balance.
4. The EA results were presented in four public information meetings in May to which everyone in the affected area was invited by a door-to-door mailing. The City’s presentation and backup details can be found here (as can the presentations made at the previous two public information meetings). The report provides a street-by-street analysis of flooding, proposed sewer and road repairs and sidewalk installations, and outlines the potential loss of trees for each street depending on the scenario adopted.
5. Citizens have been asked to provide comments on this preliminary report, which will be taken into account, with final recommendations to be presented at another public information meeting in September. Due to the high volume of comments received, the comment period has been extended to June 19. You can email your comments to Tracy Manolakakis, Manager, Public Consultation Unit, Policy, Planning, Finance & Administration Division, City of Toronto (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The LPRA’s position
No one can seriously challenge the LPRA’s decades-long commitment to the tree canopy in Lawrence Park, from annual Arbor Day planting parties, to the Tree Buddy program that has sent Blythwood School students home with hundreds of trees to plant, to advocacy at the City for individual trees under threat from development. We support the challenge to the City to come up with a construction method that minimizes the number of trees that must be removed in order to repair the sewers and roads. We have heard anecdotally that only a small number of trees were removed in the Hogg’s Hollow and Chine Drive reconstructions, despite (in the latter case) similar dire early estimates.
We are in favour of the new stormwater management system to alleviate basement and surface flooding, and the road reconstruction to repair the damage that has been done due to the surface flooding. We would like the new roads to be as narrow as possible, while still able to accommodate fire trucks and ambulances. We also believe that if the roads are being reconstructed, it’s fiscally and socially responsible to support pedestrian safety and accessibility, connection among neighbours, and a walking culture by installing sidewalks throughout the neighbourhood. The additional cost to do so at this time is negligible.
We have received many pleas for help from the parents of young children who describe terrifying near-miss accidents as their children are forced to walk in traffic to schools, parks, and the homes of friends. Some would prefer to let the kids walk, but are afraid of an accident, so they drive – which increases the traffic on the roads. Parents and nannies pushing strollers are forced to the middle of icy, hilly roads in the winter and must dart between parked cars in oncoming traffic. The disabled and less mobile are forced to drive or stay home. The City’s policy is to install at least one sidewalk on every reconstructed street and two on connector roads (Mildenhall). We support this policy.
We have also heard from many residents about their desire to maintain the rural aesthetic of no sidewalks, like Hogg’s Hollow argued in its ongoing sewer reconstruction project, and Chine Drive residents argued before a child was killed during the no-sidewalk debate. But Lawrence Park is no longer the countryside. We have more traffic than Hogg’s Hollow due to the number of homes and schools, our proximity to Bayview Avenue and Sunnybrook Hospital, and the large number of homes under construction. There is no support anywhere in the world for the view that it is safe for a pedestrian to walk in such traffic. We recognize that a number of additional trees may be lost to the sidewalks, but we believe the incremental loss to be small (since the roads will be rebuilt anyway) and the opportunity, once-in-a-lifetime. Trees can be replanted, but children cannot be replaced.
The LPRA believes that we need to keep our kids safe and our neighborhoods accessible to all. We also choose to promote a healthy walking culture. Finally, the community that comes from meeting your neighbor on the sidewalk and being able to stop for a chat is an added bonus — one that is enjoyed by the rest of Lawrence Park. In short, the LPRA supports new sewers and new roads, and a sidewalk on every reconstructed road. We want the City to use construction techniques that preserve as many trees as possible, and a robust replanting plan for those that cannot be saved.
Obviously, we have members on both sides of the sidewalk debate. The public consultation process allows everyone’s view to be considered. We are pleased to see so many new faces engaged in the future of the community, and we hope that this engagement continues. In the meantime, we continue to encourage everyone, regardless of your position on sidewalks or the final recommendations of the EA, to plant new trees to replace the aging canopy. We’re big fans of the urban forest nonprofit LEAF, which will provide you (or plant for you) a 5’ – 8’ tall native tree at a subsidized cost. As they are fond of saying, the best time to plant a tree is thirty years ago. The second best time is today.