New Brunswick

Man chains himself to tree in Fredericton

A member of the Save Officers' Square Group chained himself to a diseased elm on Queen Street in front of the historic Soldiers' Barracks on Wednesday morning in an effort to prevent it from being cut down.

Member of the Save Officers' Square Group trying to protect diseased elm near Soldiers' Barracks

Chris Smissaert of the Save Officers' Square group was supported by Wayne Brooks of St. Mary's First Nation and his grandson Caden as the forester chained himself to an elm tree near the Soldiers' Barracks in Fredericton on Wednesday. (Jennifer Sweet/CBC)

Protests to protect trees in downtown Fredericton hit a new level Wednesday morning as a man chained himself to a diseased elm on Queen Street.

Chris Smissaert said he arrived shortly before 6 a.m.

He attached himself to a tree in front of the historic Soldiers' Barracks building, planning to prevent it from being cut down.

The tree has had a red dot on it for a couple of weeks, said Smissaert, and two dead trees, in front of the neighbouring courthouse, were cut down Tuesday.

"There are hundreds of elm trees in the city that need to be cut before this one," Smissaert said.

"So we would like to save this one because it is in a heritage district."

Smissaert said he is a self-employed forester with 35 years of experience.

Sees 10 more years in tree

He said that particular tree was in the early stages of Dutch elm disease and could be kept alive for another 10 years with pruning and inoculation.

He stayed chained to the tree until late morning.

According to city officials, Smissaert's protest was unnecessary.

Although the elm was marked for destruction, the city's parks and trees manager Don Murray said a decision was made Tuesday afternoon not to cut it down, at least for now.

"We will go down and we will prune all the dead, dying and diseased material out of that tree and we'll see what happens," said Murray.

Part of larger worry about trees

He said the tree was inoculated for Dutch elm in May and in the spring of 2017.

The city's care for downtown trees has been under attack since plans were announced to remove 23 trees for an update of Officers' Square. 

Smissaert said later that he and Save Officers' Square are happy the elm is safe for now, and that he believes his early morning protest had an impact.

The tree he was trying to protect is one of four trees, none of them in Officers' Square, that the city said needed to be cut down and removed because of Dutch elm disease.