Westboro Beach residents hope to save Canada 150 maple trees

To mark Canada's 150th anniversary, the City of Ottawa planted several dozen maple trees in a park near Westboro Beach, but now many are already dead, or dying.

City of Ottawa watered trees for first 3 years, but stopped this spring

Residents lament death of maple trees planted to mark Canada 150

2 years ago
Duration 0:52
Westboro residents Alex Di Nardo and Natalia Ward say it’s disappointing to see so many dead trees in a maple grove planted to commemorate the 150th anniversary of confederation.

To mark Canada's 150th anniversary, the City of Ottawa planted several dozen maple trees in a park near Westboro Beach, but now many are already dead, or dying.

On the corner of Churchill Avenue North and Selby Avenue, a plaque on a large rock reads "Canada 150 Maple Grove," and behind it, four-year-old trees sit thirsty and struggling.

The trees sit on land owned by the National Capital Commission, but the city planted them in 2017 and is responsible for maintaining them.

"This is embarrassing, I'd say, especially since they took the time to dedicate a plaque. The optics are terrible," said Alex DiNardo, who has lived in the neighbourhood since 2004.

"You're looking at over 50 percent death [of trees] right now."

Alex DiNardo called the failure of the forest project 'embarrassing' for Ottawa and the National Capital Commission. (Ahmar Khan/CBC)

Natalia Ward has called the area home for the last 12 years and she walks through the park on a regular basis.

Ward said neighbours were quite excited to see a green space filled with trees in what she calls an "overdeveloped" neighbourhood, where condominiums and buildings are taking over.

She had hoped the maple grove could provide an "escape" for her, but now the trees are the ones seeking an escape.

"Seeing the state right now when it's dry and looks like half of the trees are dead ... it's really sad," said Ward.

More than half of trees at a commemorative forest area near Westboro Beach are dead or dying due mostly to 'shallow soils and frequent flooding,' according to the City of Ottawa. (Mathieu Theriault/CBC)

Shallow soil, flooding hurt trees, city says

In a statement, Tracey Schwets from the city's forest management branch wrote the sites were watered weekly from May to September for the first three years, "as per industry best practice with newly planted trees."

Schwets said the city did not water the trees this year despite a dry spring.

"The area noted above was particularly difficult to maintain due to shallow soils and frequent flooding. Forestry staff are currently examining the situation and will look to address any problems in the area," she said.

DiNardo questions how the city intends to move forward if it doesn't plan to water the trees.

"Just cut your losses at the beginning if you're not going to maintain it because there's no point planting them, having them dying, and having to come back and and rip them out again," he said.

Natalia Ward thinks the reins of the commemorative forest should be handed over to the Westboro Beach Community Association. (Mathieu Theriault/CBC)

Mari Wellman, co-president of the Westboro Beach Community Association, said community members are scheduled to meet with the city about the trees at the end of July to look into the cause of the struggling trees, and how the community can help maintain the area.

Ward believes the city should hand over the responsibility of caretaking the trees to the community.

"[There is a] need for accessible space for different communities, different people, different neighbours who live here. Not everyone has a chance to get out of the city," she said.

A commemorative plaque for Canada 150 Maple Grove sits by dead and dying trees in a forest area near Westboro Beach. (Mathieu Theriault/CBC)