WINNIPEG — Recent clear-cutting in two Winnipeg parks by Manitoba Hydro has residents demanding guidelines and increased community consultation.
A letter, signed by four residents’ associations and Trees Please Winnipeg, is calling on Manitoba Hydro to immediately develop policies regarding the maintenance, pruning and removal of existing trees in Winnipeg.
The letter to Manitoba Hydro was also sent to the city and provincial representatives including Mayor Brian Bowman and Jeff Wharton, the province’s Minister of Crown Services.
Robert Orr, president of Kingston Crescent Residents’ Association, said they want the city and province to be “keenly aware” citizens are voicing their displeasure with how Manitoba Hydro goes about its business.
“[We want] to start getting some straight answers from Manitoba Hydro going forward about how they are going to approach the whole forestry infrastructure in the city,” Orr said. “And if they can do so in a more respectful and collaborative manner with the communities that they serve.”
In March, Manitoba Hydro authorized the clear-cutting of 200 mature trees in Wolseley’s Omand Park. The letter said the felled trees could have been pruned instead.
Last week, at Sandra Crowson Bay Park in East Fort Garry, Manitoba Hydro cut down trees near power lines.
“I think that was, kind of, the last straw,” Orr said.
Orr said they penned the letter not only to demand action, but to get several neighbourhood committees involved.
“Enough is enough.”
According to the residents’ letter, the loss of trees disrupts urban ecosystems and negatively impacts animals living there.
The letter said Manitoba Hydro’s response to concerned citizens has been inadequate. The letter calls Hydro’s decisions on where and what trees to cut down appears “ad hoc and inscrutable.”
The residents expect Hydro to develop a clear and transparent policy on when trees should be pruned as opposed to removed. The letter also calls for meaningful public engagement to clearly communicate with neighbourhoods prior to cutting.
In a statement to CTV News, the Crown corporation said, “nobody, including Manitoba Hydro, wants to see trees removed unnecessarily. Unfortunately, in some instances – usually when self-seeding, fast-growing trees that were not present when lines were initially built are involved – removing the trees in the entirety may be the only way we can safely ensure we protect against the risks of prolonged outages, damage to infrastructure, and fires.”
The statement also said Manitoba Hydro only removes trees when it’s absolutely necessary, preferring to prune back what is required to maintain safe clearance.
Manitoba Hydro said it is looking to make improvements in how it notifies communities of tree management.
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