Protesters halt removal of trees in rural N.S. community
Provincial officials say they'll organize public consultation
A group of protesters stopped provincial crews from removing trees lining a stretch of rural highway in Nova Scotia Thursday morning.
Peter Romkey lives a couple kilometres outside of Petite Riviѐre Bridge in Lunenburg County, N.S., and said he received a call early Thursday from another local telling him "they were cutting up the trees."
"I kind of knew what trees they were talking about because … [the province] talked about removing them a couple years ago."
The trees are mature white ash, according to Romkey. He said they're well-loved by the community.
"There's this lovely little lane that's been here for … [probably] the last 50 or 60 years, and everybody comes to enjoy it," said Romkey.
He said that traffic slows as it turns the bend entering the small community on Highway 331, where the trees are found.
"These wonderful big trees have their branches spread across the road so it just makes a really nice setting as you drive into Petite Riviѐre."
Romkey said between 30 and 40 people turned out to protect the trees, which had been marked for removal with spray paint.
Peter Barss, who was among the people who protested the tree removal, said there was no public consultation prior to a decision being made to cut down the trees.
"If there is a safety issue ... then fair enough, but there should be public consultation," Barrs said.
Barss said he was pleased provincial crews decided not to cut any trees down.
"They're important because first of all, they're beautiful trees, they're old trees. Most of them, I would say, are well over 100 years old," he said.
"And why they're suddenly a problem now, nobody understands. But it's actually one of the most beautiful collection of old trees that I know of in this area."
A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said in an email that four trees were slated for removal from provincial property, but crews didn't proceed because of the protest.
"We agreed to pause our work until we can sit down with the community and have more fulsome conversations about the scope of the project. We look forward to those discussions."
The spokesperson said the trees were identified for removal because they were impacting visibility for motorists and driveway sight lines for vehicles entering the highway.
Romkey said he didn't believe the trees presented any safety concerns, and could remain in place, "without having to worry about branches or limbs falling over for another 100 years."
With files from Mary Lynk