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Stouffville's 'oldest' tree could be on the chopping block for new GO station

Stouffville's 'oldest' tree could be felled for new GO station
August 27, 2019
Simon Martin

A rare American elm tree has watched over Tenth Line in Stouffville for over 150 years. But with a new GO station on its way, the question is for how much longer? Stouffville Arborist Mark Carroll said the 200-year-old tree is one of the oldest in Whitchurch-Stouffville.

“There are not much of these old guys left,” Carroll said.

But the tree is located on the site of Metrolinx’s Lincolnville expansion. As the town and Metrolinx plan to expand Metrolinx’s parking and layover area on Tenth Line south of Bethesda Rd, Carroll is worried about the tree's future.

“It is the largest and may be the oldest tree in Whitchurch-Stouffville,” he said, noting theĀ  tree is 40 metres tall, with a canopy 40 metres wide and a 4-metre trunk circumference.

Carroll is hoping Metrolinx can be swayed to preserve the tree. A spokesperson for Metrolinx said the this particular elm was identified in the Environmental Assessment process. The proposed GO Station at Lincolnville is in the design stage; no final decisions about the tree have been made.

“We are working with environmental consultants to carry out a feasibility study that will advise on all possible options to save the tree,” Metrolinx said in a statement.

There is some precedence for Metrolinx taking extraordinary measures to preserve trees during construction. Earlier this month, the contractor building the new Rutherford GO Station in Vaughan arranged to move 16 trees away from the construction zone and into two parks in Vaughan.

The worked performed on Aug. 9 was a huge success, Metrolinx said.

While Metrolinx was able to preserve trees in the Vaughan project, the American elm is much larger task.

Carroll said that most of the elm trees in the area were destroyed by Dutch Elm Disease which wreaked havoc on the species in the 1970s and 1980s. The fact this particular tree was able to survive makes it all the more special.

According to Carroll, the tree has been documented and the Arboretum at Guelph University has on record the position, condition and size of the tree. The Arboretum, through the Elm Recovery Program, looks at these large American elms to see how resistant to Dutch Elm Decease they are.

Carroll said the recovery program looks to these old surviving trees for collection of seeds and genetic cellular regeneration to save the species into the future.

“There are not many left in Ontario, and we need these types of trees to further the recovery of true American elms,” he said. “It’s such a great healthy tree, it would be a shame to lose this one.”

The tree is located on the old Jacobs property where a nursery use to operate, Carroll said.

“We may never see trees of this size and condition in the province of Ontario again if we continue to remove them for parking lots and buildings," he said.

Metrolinx is planning to relocate the Lincolnville GO station to the southwest corner of Tenth Line and Bethesda Road. The area is designated for residential and urban medium density residential uses.

Council approved the Lincolnville GO station area land use study terms of reference last year and directed staff to plan for a major transit station area (MTSA) within a 500-metre radius of the new GO station.

The provincial growth plan requires such an area to achieve a minimum density target of 150 residents and jobs combined per hectare within a 500-metre radius.

The town said if approved, the area will add about 5,000 residents and 750 population-serving jobs to the town’s 2031-2041 growth forecasts. If approved, staff said the area will help support a possible future extension of the all-day GO rail service from Unionville to Lincolnville.