Nova Scotia

Trees come down for flood mitigation project in Sydney's Baille Ard Trail

Some trees are starting to come down in the only urban forest in Sydney, N.S., in an effort to reduce the impact of flooding. But not everyone is pleased.

Users aren't sure carving three earthen berms out of the forest will help reduce flood waters after heavy rain

Contractors use a mulcher to clear a service road through the Baille Ard Trail forest in Sydney, N.S., in preparation for flood mitigation work that will come later this year. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Cape Breton Regional Municipality is starting to take down some trees in Sydney's only urban forest as part of a flood mitigation project, but not everyone is convinced it will work.

Contractors started knocking down trees on Monday, using a giant mechanical mulcher to clear a service road into the 28-hectare Baille Ard Trail system.

Even though John Duffy lives in the flood zone created by the Wash Brook that runs through the forest, he said he is "disappointed and heartbroken. Anytime we lose any natural forestation, I think this is a terrible thing."

Duffy is also a frequent user of the trails, which are just upstream from his home.

He was out walking Monday while the work was going on.

"For the amount of destruction that's going on, for the benefits, I really don't see it being thought out enough," he said.

John Duffy lives in the Wash Brook flood zone, but he says it breaks his heart to see workers cutting down trees, which he says likely won't help prevent flooding. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The project has been generating concern for years now.  Some people are afraid the flood mitigation project will ruin the trails for users.

The urban forest is well used by all ages and should be protected, Duffy said.

"It's one of the very few green spaces in the city that is just perfect and it's accessible for everybody," he said. "It's just the ideal spot.

"It was a well-planned-out project and it breaks my heart to see it being abbreviated."

Duffy said climate change is making weather patterns more unpredictable and cutting down trees won't help.

CBRM is spending about $3.5 million on a flood intensity mitigation project as a result of a major rain storm that wiped out about 20 homes on Thanksgiving Day 2016. 

That day, more than 225 millimetres of rain fell in less than 24 hours.

CBRM spokeswoman Christina Lamey says some trails will be closed while work is done to try to slow down future flood waters. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

CBRM says the project was designed to help reduce the flow of water, while having the least impact on the forest. 

Christina Lamey, the municipality's communications officer, said the project includes adding control structures on two lakes outside the forest.

The work that started this week will lead to construction of three earthen retaining walls that will be built among the trees to further slow the water down as it heads toward Sydney's South End residential neighbourhood.

Lamey said the overall goal is not to eliminate flooding, but to reduce its severity.

"The entire system when working together is designed to reduce the flow and time the flow better in terms of how much water is coming down during major rain events," she said.

Lamey said the work is expected to be completed later this year.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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