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No protection from construction for trees in a city park: The Fixer

The city is vigilant in enforcing tree protection zone rules on private property, but they don't seem to apply at Neil McLellan Park.
Nov. 9, 2016
By Jack Lakey

The city seems to be much better at enforcing tree protection zone rules on private property than on its own land.

It’s hard not to come to that conclusion after observing the damage to trees from construction in Neil McLellan Park, which runs between Runnymede Rd. and Beresford Ave., just north of Bloor St. W.

To protect Toronto’s extensive tree canopy, the city has tough rules requiring barriers to be erected around trees in proximity to construction, and claims to be serious about enforcing them.

It says “all construction related applications must include a Tree Protection Plan that shows details of tree protection, prepared in conjunction with an arborist report or in consultation with an arborist, when protected trees are in proximity to the proposed work.”

But that obviously didn’t happen at Neil McLellan, where a sign says that improvements now underway include “new seating and bicycle parking, new decorative paving (and) large ‘flower pot’ planters.”

Dave Bragg sent us photos and a note saying that “as a homeowner I have some experience with the city's tree protection police, as does anyone who works around trees here in Toronto.

“We're used to the extensive hoarding (erected around trees) to protect our canopy. Therefore I was surprised to see this 'tree abuse' going on in the parkette that connects Beresford to Runnymede.

“It appears that there may be one standard for the city and another standard for the rest of us.”

We went there and found two large, healthy trees that had sustained root damage from excavating less than a metre away from their trunks. We spoke to construction workers who seemed to have no idea about the requirement for tree protection zones.

STATUS: Chris Clarke, a technical services supervisor for west-end parks, said the company doing the work is on the city’s roster of approved contractors, and should be aware of tree protection rules. Maybe so, but even if the contractor doesn’t, the parks department should. Jason Doyle, who’s in charge of urban forestry, said the same rules that apply on private property also apply to city property, and that tree protection zones should have been put up. Urban forestry staff are looking into it and will make sure the rules are enforced, he said.