Residents of Halifax’s Schmidtville raise concerns over city’s plan to cut down trees for bike lanes

Click to play video: 'Schmidtvile residents in downtown Halifax worried city will cut large trees'
Schmidtvile residents in downtown Halifax worried city will cut large trees
WATCH: Residents of a downtown Halifax neighbourhood are out to save their trees. People living in Schmidtville fear the city wants to remove 48 large trees to make way for bike lanes. Amber Fryday reports. – Oct 26, 2021

The organization Friends of Schmidtville, a resident-run group, is protesting the city looking into widening the street for bike lanes, which would potentially destroy up to 48 mature trees in the neighbourhood.

In 2008, Schmidtville was turned into a Heritage Conservation District, which was an initiative led by the same group. In 2017, Schmidtville won the Great Places in Canada contest as the greatest neighbourhood in Canada for that year.

Read more: Halifax’s Schmidtville named ‘Great Neighbourhood’ by Canadian city planners

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According to the Schmidtville website, “The residents of past and present are very proud of their neighbourhood and want to share this historic neighbourhood with the world.”

Larry Haiven has been a resident of Morris Street for 15 years and says the city’s plan to cut down the trees between South Park Street and Lower Water Street is “absolutely ridiculous.”

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“How are you going to go about greening a city by cutting down trees? Some of these trees are 50, 70 years old. Some of them are 30 years old and that takes a long time to grow back. It would deaden the street. Imagine this street without the trees,” he said.

Haiven says he and many of his neighbours are cyclists and they aren’t against bike lanes, but he doesn’t think tree removal is the answer. He wants to see city council take the tree removal option off the table.

Area resident Karen Mitchell says she has tried contacting her councillor, Waye Mason, and Mayor Mike Savage on numerous occasions and she says it is concerning that she hasn’t heard back.

Click to play video: 'Residents in historic Schmidtville neighbourhood fed up with blasting'
Residents in historic Schmidtville neighbourhood fed up with blasting

“This is historic Schmidtville and the trees add a lot of character. They add ambience to walking the sidewalks. I mean, in this era of fighting climate change, taking down our mature trees is the last thing we should be doing,” she told Global News.

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The organization says the city needs an alternative, like making single bike lanes on South Street or University Avenue.

Lara Cusson, who lives on Morris Street, says you could put one bike lane down Morris Street and one down South Street and “you wouldn’t have to remove a single tree.”

“We’ve done extensive research and we haven’t found one city that’s had to cut down trees to put in a bike lane. I love cycling. In Montreal, those big cities that really have made it really safe to cycle in. But you have the trees, the roads and everything works together. And, I think we need to get creative and look, how are they getting this right? Why can’t we get it right?” said Cusson.

Read more: Halifax councillor says historic trees aren’t going anywhere

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A spokesperson for Halifax Regional Municipality said the city is developing a number of different concepts to add bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to Morris Street to share with the public for feedback. Some of these concepts would impact trees and some would not. Other implications of the concepts include potential changes to parking, curbside loading, traffic lanes and intersections.

Following public engagement and evaluation of the options, the preferred option will be presented to council for approval. The focus when sharing these concepts with the public is to be clear on what could change on the street and to hear what people think.

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The municipality said engagement is expected this fall or winter.

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