Twitter account tells Montreal where it can stick its new trees

When Anthony Paya noticed trees downtown were missing, he started a twitter account to list spots across Montreal where the city could replant them.

Arbres Montréal alerts city to spots where trees need to be replaced

As a marketing specialist, Anthony Paya turned to social media to remind Montreal about replacing trees. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC )

Anthony Paya wouldn't call himself an activist.

But when he noticed three trees were missing from the corner of Saint-Mathieu and de Maisonneuve streets, in front of the bustling Guy-Concordia Metro entrance, he called the city to have them replaced.

"You see there are a lot of trees missing downtown, but it's a problem all over Montreal," he said. "I wasn't getting an answer from [the city] so I used what I know to do something about it."

In June, the marketing specialist created Arbres Montréal, a Twitter account drawing attention to trees the city has cut down.

This year, Montreal announced it would plant 500,000 trees by 2030 as part of its 10-year climate action plan. Its goal is to plant 46,900 trees and more than 6,000 shrubs by the end of 2021.

Paya says he recognizes the city's environmental efforts, but as Quebec faces heat wave warnings, the lack of greenery on certain downtown stretches worries him.

"You don't need to be a biologist to know that trees are good for our health," he said.

Through the account, Paya asks concerned citizens to send him photos and locations for spots where trees once stood so he can alert the city by publicly mentioning them in a tweet.

Montreal has a nursery, which produces about 4,000 trees a year, but a spokesperson for the city said that's not enough to replace all the trees that get cut down, and boroughs have to rely on independent contractors to supply additional trees.

Beyond esthetics

Paya says that in the two months he's been running Arbres Montréal, he has learned the city mainly cuts down trees because of power lines, the invasive emerald ash borer, vandalism, and perennial Montreal construction plans.

"We don't always get an answer for why a specific tree was removed so I try to follow up," he said.
Arbres Montréal is a twitter account that points out where trees need to be replanted. (Submitted by Anthony Paya)

To compensate for the trees removed, Montreal says it plans on transferring $3 million to two non-profit partners who specialize in regreening the urban area, t​​he Société de verdissement du Montréal métropolitain and Alliance forêt urbaine, which has planted nearly 73,000 trees on the island over the years.

Although Arbres Montréal centralizes digital call-outs to the city, Paya says its purpose isn't to point fingers. Rather, the collection of tweets is a set of friendly reminders to Montreal to keep track of where it needs to replant.

"I made the account in the spirit of wanting to help improve the situation and find solutions," he said. "I use the account to promote good initiatives elsewhere too."

with files from Rowan Kennedy and CBC Montreal's Daybreak