Crews remove tree at Government and Humboldt streets to make way for bike lanes, crosswalk

Crews remove tree at Government and Humboldt streets to make way for bike lanes, crosswalk

WATCH: Nearly 1,200 people signed the petition, others laid signs nearby, all in an effort to save a mature aspen tree in the heart of the Inner Harbour from being cut down. In the end, the public outcry didn’t stop crews on Monday. Luisa Alvarez explains what happened.

City crews have removed a large aspen tree near the Inner Harbour to make way for bike lanes and a crosswalk.

On Monday morning, crews had taken down the tree at Humboldt and Government streets and the branches were placed in a wood chipper. According to the City of Victoria, the tree was removed to make room for a two-way protected bike lane on Wharf Street and a scamble-style crosswalk in front of the Visitor Information Centre.

WATCH: City of Victoria crews remove the aspen tree at Government and Humboldt streets on Jan. 28, 2019.

Verna Stone, a Victoria resident, was watching the tree coming down on Monday and said it was “heartbreaking.”

“I feel like the heart and soul of Victoria is being destroyed here. I really do.”

Stone said the tree was iconic and she saw tourists who would stop to take a look at it. She also noted that trees, like the aspen, absorb carbon dioxide from the air.

“This seems counterproductive to destroy our green space,” Stone said. Stone also heard that the tree was removed mainly from the crosswalk.

“Surely we can find a way to walk around a tree,” Stone said.

The city’s plan had sparked criticism from environmentalists and other members of public. A petition on to save the tree has more than 1,000 signatures  and protest signs were seen around the tree on Saturday.

Mayor Lisa Helps stands behind the decision.

“The outcry is a surprise when you learn next week or two weeks from now a tree is going to come down, but council made the decision in May of 2018 after detailed public consultation about the reconfiguration of that intersection,” Helps said.

“People will be happy with what’s there. It’s going to be a beautiful intersection but more importantly what doesn’t exist now there will be a new pedestrian plaza so people can actually sit on a bench under a tree and enjoy the shade.”

Also on Monday, the city issued a statement via Twitter.

“The city does not take any tree removal lightly. We value and recognize the importance of trees as important natural assets in our community and the important role trees have in an urban environment incl contributing to improved air quality, temperature control, habitat for birds and insects, and an overall sense of place. Two new Red Oak trees will be planted in this location along with four additional trees at the intersection of Douglas and Humboldt Street. The new trees will be placed strategically in the pedestrian plaza, away from traffic and with ample room to grow to full maturity,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, Mariann Burka, a member of the Trees Matter Network, has filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. She feels city council didn’t seriously consider other options and wasn’t transparent enough in their decision making. She says with this FOI,  she wants the council to be accountable especially since she and others felt the public wasn’t heard.

Helps strongly refutes that claim and says extensive consultation was done for a period of almost two years.


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