Riverdale residents miffed by city's removal of lilac bush

Riverdale residents say they were stunned to see work crews with chainsaws hacking away at the massive lilac bush at Cameron Avenue and 94th Street.

Lilac bush will be replaced by a fire hydrant associated with Valley Line LRT project

Catherine Cole was incensed when she learned the large lilac bush at Cameron Avenue and 94th Street was being removed. (Gavin Thomas/CBC)

Riverdale residents say they were stunned to see work crews with chainsaws hacking away at a massive lilac bush at Cameron Avenue and 94th Street this week.

"This bush has been always a really important place for us," Catherine Cole said Friday, motioning toward what remained of the bush a day after it was removed: stumps and a gigantic hole in the ground. 

"It is the entrance to Riverdale. It's the first place you see here," she said. "There's a sign that says, 'Welcome to Riverdale, the city's garden,' and they've take down what was symbolic of the city's garden."

Cole, a 30-year Riverdale resident, isn't exactly sure how old the lilac bush was. But she said it was there long before she moved into the community. 

Work crews cut down this Riverdale lilac bush, pictured in 2016, to make way for a fire hydrant. (Google Earth)

She and her daughter were walking their dog along the path parallel to the intersection on Thursday when they noticed work crews.

When they asked what was going on, they were referred to city officials. A city spokesperson told them the bush was being removed to make way for a fire hydrant connected to the construction of the Valley Line LRT. 

Cole said she doesn't understand why the fragrant bush had to be removed.

"The LRT is on the other side of the hill and a couple blocks away, and there is a fire hydrant right across the street," Cole said.

'We weren't given any reason'

David Vandenbroke, a Riverdale resident for three years, lives near where the bush was. He heard crews cutting the lilacs down from his condo.

"I heard some noise, I heard chainsaws," he said. "I came up the path in the park by the river and found some people cutting down the lilac bush."

Both he and Cole are concerned they weren't given any notice about destroying the bush. "I'm a little upset that this bush was cleaned out, that we weren't given any reason," Vandenbroke said. 

"I'm unsure of that the disconnect is but it would be nice to know and to be able to find some compromise in order to make sure something that's been in Riverdale for a number of years isn't destroyed needlessly."

Sue Heuman, a spokesperson for the LRT project, confirmed in an email that residents were not notified about the removal of lilac bush. 

Heuman did say there are landscaping plans in place for the area, including the planting of "thousands" of shrubs, trees and plants once LRT construction is completed. 

"We do understand the community is concerned," Heuman said. "I understand this won't bring the lilac back, but we hope it provides some reassurance that we are committed to enhancing the area after construction.

"Certainly the impact on neighbourhoods is one of the significant challenges we face when we go through mature areas."