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Poplar problems plague Calgary homeowner

Calgary woman wages battle with city hall over what she calls dangerous tree
WATCH: A Calgary homeowner is demanding city hall address her poplar problem. Global’s Tomasia DaSilva explains what the tree is doing, and what the homeowner says the city is not doing about it.

A tree that was once commonly planted in many Calgary neighbourhoods is causing major headaches for a local homeowner.

The poplar was planted in Chris Saciuk’s southeast neighbourhood of Parkland several decades ago.

The problem is, the roots of the city-owned tree are now snaking through her front yard, encroaching on her home and uprooting a nearby sidewalk.

“This is a hazard,” Saciuk said.

But despite urging the city for the past 11 years to cut it down, she said she’s had no luck.

“If there’s a strong wind, the tree will blow over,” she said. “And then there’s going to be more damage to the road, the sidewalk or my house.”

Calgary woman battles city hall to get a problem poplar cut down
Calgary woman battles city hall to get a problem poplar cut down. Global News/ Dani Lantela

WATCH: Calgary homeowner ‘shrieked’ when tree came crashing down onto her home during wind storm

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Julie Guimond, with the City of Calgary’s Urban Forestry department, said that’s very unlikely.

“The tree itself is in very good health,” Guimond said. “It’s not at all at risk of rotting from the inside or falling over. So we don’t see this as a hazard.”

Guimond added under the tree protection bylaw, cutting down what’s considered a healthy and very expensive tree isn’t really an option.

Instead, the city has given Saciuk several other options to deal with the problem, including grinding down the roots, refilling the area with some sod and then seeding over the top.

Global News asked Guimond if that would weaken the roots and the tree, but was assured it wouldn’t.

“So if the structural roots are entirely removed, that can weaken the tree,” Guimond said. “What we’re talking about is grinding them down a certain level. Any structural damage we might have seen from any of that damage on the roots, we probably would have seen by now.”

Spray-painted giant tree root protruding out of woman’s lawn
Spray-painted giant tree root protruding out of woman’s lawn. Global News

Saciuk can’t cut the tree down herself because it is on city-owned property and is a city asset. She has been told if she does cause any harm to the tree, she will face some huge penalties.

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“If I do anything myself, be proactive about it, I’m fined $10,000 and have a six-month jail sentence.”

Guimond said they have no interest in pursuing those penalties in this case and it’s unfortunate Saciuk was told that.

As for the sidewalk in front of the house, she added that has been fixed.

“The sidewalk has been repaired,” Guimond said. “It is a nice smooth sidewalk, there is a small lift in it that is a regular amount of lift we would expect in a sidewalk.”

READ MORE: City investigating after 2 trees worth $33K cut down in Calgary neighbourhood

Calgary woman fights city hall over what she calls dangerous tree.
Calgary woman fights city hall over what she calls dangerous tree. Global News

Saciuk has now put up a warning sign on her own property and painted the roots bright yellow, so that no one will fall on the roots and get hurt.

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The city said it’s going to continue to monitor the health of the tree and work with Saciuk to make sure that a good balance can be found.