How Montreal is giving new life to trees lost to emerald ash borer

The death of so many trees as a result of the emerald ash borer infestation is sparking some creative thinking about what to do with them in Montreal and elsewhere.

Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie among communities turning trees felled by infestation into public good

The Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie borough is turning ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer into flower boxes and benches. (Projet Montréal)

Faced with the devastation of the emerald ash borer, Montreal and other cities are giving new life to trees lost to the invasive beetle.

One in five trees in Montreal is an ash and more than 13,000 trees have already been killed by the emerald ash borer.

And the worst is yet to come. The City of Montreal says the 200,000 ash trees on public property are at risk from the infestation, in addition to all those on private property.

Montreal has lost 13,000 ash trees as a result of the emerald ash borer infestation. (Radio-Canada)

The deaths of so many trees is sparking some creative thinking about what to do with them in the Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough.

A collaboration between the borough and non-profit groups working with job-seeking youths and adults is now turning the wood from felled ash trees into flower boxes and public benches for parks, paths and borough streets.

The program teaches participants to work with the wood while giving new life to lost trees.

To date, the program has produced more than 60 pieces of furniture.

"This is real sustainable development — we're protecting the environment, helping young people with job skills, providing people with reduced mobility places to sit, and helping local businesses," said Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie mayor François Croteau.

Another Montreal collaboration has the group Les Jeunes Marins Urbains working with participants to turn wood from infected trees into sailboats that they then learn how to sail.

Good from disaster

Ottawa is another city that's trying to turn a natural disaster into a public good.

One in four trees in the nation's capital is an ash and the infestation has claimed 45,000 trees since 2008.

Many of the trees will find new uses in the city's light rail stations, where their wood will grace the walls and ceilings.

Wood from felled ash trees will have a central place in the design of Ottawa's new light rail train stations. (Bernard Laroche / Radio-Canada )

"We wanted to create ceilings that give the impression of being delicate and light and that seem to float," architect Ritchard Brisbin said.

"The curved ceilings, bent like origami, trace the path that passengers are meant to follow. And the wood adds a sense of warmth," he said.

Just across the Ottawa River, in Aylmer, Que., the Eardley Elementary School turned a once majestic avenue of ash trees devastated by the emerald ash borer into a sculpture project.

Rather than cut the trees down, the school had 40 artists transform their trunks into works of art with chainsaws.

The school is also planting new trees between the sculpted trunks.

Eardley Elementary School in Aylmer, Que., has turned its once magnificent avenue of ash trees into a sculpture garden. (Bernard Laroche / Radio-Canada)

With files from Radio-Canada's Annie Hudon-Friceau