Silvana Valiani has a front yard that any monarch butterfly would love. But lately, she says, that’s been jeopardized.

Valiani, a professional landscaper, lives on Donn Avenue in Stoney Creek. Her natural garden with species of indigenous milkweed and other plants has been designated as a monarch stop-off point by Monarch Watch and Nature Conservancy Canada.

But the garden is about 400 square feet smaller after the city put in sidewalks on her street. City crews pulled out the plants along the road allowance to allow for a two-metre sidewalk, a move Valiani says took her by surprise.

She’s since parked her Ford Escape in the way of crews until someone explains why she wasn’t given proper notice of all the changes. Since the work has started, Valiani said, it’s gotten even worse.

Sidewalk construction

A crew puts in sidewalks on Donn Avenue in Stoney Creek. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

“We were initially going to have a 1.5-metre sidewalk. Now it’s going to be a two-metre sidewalk. Everybody else has a 1.5-metre sidewalk.”

“I was not consulted on this. This decision was arbitrarily made to change the sidewalk without any consultation whatsoever.”

Valiani is an arborist, gardener and landscape architect who works for the city. She bought her Donn Avenue house about five years ago, and began her monarch project about three years ago.

Trees at risk

She planted milkweed, which is the host plant for the butterflies. She planted New York ironweed, and rudbeckia and other plants and flowers. In addition to being a resting stop for butterflies, it also attracts migratory birds and acts as a rain garden, treating rain water and releasing it into the city's aquifers.

She received a notice that there would be work done to the watermains, and some road resurfacing. Then she learned that there would be sidewalks put in, and they’ve ended up being wider than anticipated.

Norm McCarthy, who lives nearby, has lived on the street for 22 years. He also has some concerns. He’s never had to maintain a sidewalk before, he said, and doesn’t want to now.

More than 300 streets without sidewalks

“I can understand the principle of sidewalks, but we weren’t consulted about it.”

It’s rare that the city gets calls from people upset about getting sidewalks, said Coun. Brad Clark of Ward 9. Usually, he gets calls from people who want them.

“I’m not diminishing that they’re upset,” he said. “Believe me, I understand. Folks have done an awful lot of work on their gardens.

“But if it's having an attractive garden compared to people being safe walking along the road, the priority for the city is safety.”

The city would like to have sidewalks on all of its streets and roads, Clark said. There are more than 300 without them across Hamilton. It puts in as many as it can afford through the annual budget.

Sidewalks are safer, councillor says

Residents who live on streets without sidewalks should not be surprised to get them at any time, he said.

“Sidewalks are for safety purposes because we don’t want people walking on the road. It’s part of the urbanization projects we’ve been trying to do for many, many years.”

Donn Avenue residents were notified of the sidewalks, Clark said. The city doesn’t get resident input before it installs them because it’s certain they’re necessary for safety purposes.

“We can’t not put them in because the people who don’t want sidewalks might not be living there in five years,” he said.

But for Valiani, the concerns remain. She's never counted how many butterflies are drawn to her way station, but it's "a lot more than if we have this."