June 18, 2018 7:52 pm
Updated: June 19, 2018 12:29 am

City of Edmonton says LRT trees can be saved but Glenora residents don’t believe it

WATCH ABOVE: More than 1,000 mature trees are to be cleared in west Edmonton in order to get the LRT moving in that part of the city. Kim Smith reports.

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There isn’t a lot of trust in the Glenora community when it comes to the City of Edmonton’s plan to run the West LRT along Stony Plain Road.

More than 1,100 trees are in danger of having to be removed. Councillors at Monday’s executive committee meeting were told by city administration that the planned route is still a work in progress, and no final decisions have been made.

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“If we can relocate, we will,” said deputy city manager for infrastructure Adam Laughlin. “It could include investigating relocating large trees.”

Christine Lefebvre, with the Old Glenora Conservation Association, said she’s angry at the prospect of trees that have lined Stony Plain Road between 124 and 142 streets for decades being gone.

“There’s at least 20 of those 25 very, very large trees which are to be removed. It changes the canopy, it changes the way that we view our city… aesthetically, financially — everything,” she said.

“Edmonton should be angry too. It’s overkill to say the least.”

Laughlin said the city policy takes the total value of trees that are removed in a project and replaces them although they may not be the same size.

READ MORE: History will likely be lost with west LRT construction in Edmonton

That policy isn’t good enough for area resident Walter Pavlik.

“That is an incredible loss to the city and their suggestion that they can replace them with tiny trees is just untenable,” he said. “You can’t replace a 60- or 70-foot high tree that’s four feet in diameter with a three-inch tree that’s five feet tall.”

A solution the group is pitching is to revert back to the original concept of having the LRT run down the centre of Stony Plain Road and to drop the idea of a station at 133 Street.

Pavlik said he’s even open to changing the vehicle technology.

“There’s rubber-tire trains, we had one councillor mention that,” he said. “[You could] even turn Stony Plain Road into [an] LRT-only [road]. For the impact the traffic’s going to have on that after the LRT’s in, there’s a couple of suggestions right there.”

Councillor Scott McKeen said he’s heard of technology used in California that could see large mature trees set aside and then replanted once the construction is done, although he admits the price tag is unknown. City manager Linda Cochrane said she can’t promise trees will be saved at any cost.

“We can commit to you to reasonably and thoroughly work with the community to come up with something,” she said. “But if we get to the point where there’s a big disparity between the thinking on what’s the way to go, and it involves a significant investment one way or the other, we would come back to council.”

One guess for the cost of saving a single tree is $250,000.

“There will be pain. People will be upset. We can not win them all,” McKeen said. “These are important assets to our community.”

READ MORE: New motion suggests keeping LRT at street level at busy west Edmonton intersection

Mayor Don Iveson said he’s putting his faith in the administration and says it knows what it’s doing, even after debate over the years for the South LRT extension, the Walterdale Bridge, and up Connors Road for the current Valley Line LRT construction.

“There’s a larger purpose here with these city building infrastructure projects that… will lead us to the finish line.”

Glenora residents are hoping the city will reconsider.

“Ask us if we would want to take out over 1,000 of our trees, 2,000 potentially trees, and have the LRT — I think the answer’s going to be different,” said Wendy Antoniuk, who is also with the Old Glenora Conservation Association. “Ask us if we want to take out 20 more heritage homes and lose all the trees… to have the LRT. It’s a different kind of consideration.”

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