Why trees are being felled in Montreal's La Fontaine Park
'We heard a tree crack,' says teacher of nearby school who has seen firsthand the danger of weak trees
With its artificial lake surrounded by a rolling treescape, Montreal's iconic La Fontaine Park is brimming with a majestic mix of saplings and ancient hardwoods.
But a total of 132 of those to trees are being taken down by the city because, with hollow trunks, they pose a threat to the public.
Residents of the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough who live near the park have been serenaded by chainsaws in recent days as crews have begun felling what amounts to 4.3 per cent of the park's approximately 3,100 trees.
The city warned residents before beginning the project, which will take an estimated two years. Crews will also be reforesting the park next, planting 200 new trees by 2025.
The city says the trees were damaged during the ice storm of 1998. Since then, workers have made effort to slow their decline.
But after more than two decades of monitoring and maintenance, the city says it's become evident the trees are weakened structurally and the risk of collapse endangers park users.
Some of those trees have already met their demise naturally and people like Manuel Laforme, who teaches at a primary school bordering the park, knows all to well what happens when the wind picks up.
"When we exited the school, we heard a tree crack," Laforme told Radio-Canada of his recent experience.
"It was an immense cracking sound. With the wind, the tree was breaking. We called the city to let them know and by the next morning, it was on the ground."
The tree Laforme described is a silver maple, which is common in the park and throughout the region. They can live up to 130 years in an urban environment, but often die after 80 years in the wild.
Laforme agrees that it is a safety concern and taking down the weakened trees makes sense. But not everybody feels that way.
People have been watching the trees come down with mixed emotions, with some feeling public safety is the most important while others are sad to see the ancient trees cut.
In one case, a tree that had been marked for removal with spray paint and a laminated sign explaining the situation, somebody scribbled "STOP le carnage" on it in black marker.
132 arbres doivent être abattus au Parc La Fontaine. Les émondeurs sont à l’œuvre. C’est pour la sécurité du public dit la ville. <a href="https://twitter.com/icimontreal?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@icimontreal</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/le1518?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@le1518</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PolMtl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PolMtl</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/environnement?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#environnement</a> <a href="https://t.co/F4vCa3g8NS">pic.twitter.com/F4vCa3g8NS</a>—@ReneSaintLouis
Last year, the city unveiled its plan to freshen up La Fontaine Park with a special focus on pedestrians and cyclists.
That plan focuses on improving the park for pedestrians by turning Emile-Duployé Avenue, the only street that runs through the park, into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare. The street currently splits the park in two.
As part of the plan, the city has also moved part of the bike path onto the street. The renovations are planned over the next 10 to 15 years.
With files from Radio-Canada's René Saint-Louis