Saskatoon residents outraged after CP Rail cuts down 2,000 trees

Saskatoon residents say they're shocked CP Rail recently cut down an estimated 2,000 trees from their neighbourhood.

Manitoba maple trees were healthy and had grown along neighbourhood embankment for decades, residents say

An estimated 2,000 trees were recently chopped down from the CP Rail embankment in Saskatoon's North Park neighbourhood. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Saskatoon residents say they're shocked CP Rail recently cut down an estimated 2,000 trees in their neighbourhood.

They say CP owes them an explanation, but refused to talk to them before, during or after the operation.

"This looks terrible. CP is being a bad neighbour," said Melanie Vanderlinde, vice-president of the North Park Richmond Heights Community Association.

CP recently removed nearly every tree from an embankment along 33rd Street, the residents say. Beginning near the South Saskatchewan Riverbank, the seven-metre-wide cut runs west for roughly one kilometre.

A member of SOS Trees Coalition — a Saskatoon group focused on urban forest preservation — conducted a rough a count of the stumps. It estimates between 2,000 and 2,500 trees, most of them apparently healthy Manitoba maples, were felled.

An estimated 2,000 trees to the left of this bike path along Saskatoon's 33rd Street have now been removed by CP Rail, angering residents and tree advocates. (Submitted by Richard Kerbes)

The affected embankment runs between the CP railway tracks and a bike path.

The embankment is CP property, and the City of Saskatoon has no power to stop tree removal on private property, an official confirmed.

CP officials declined a CBC News interview request, but emailed a statement saying CP conducts a "comprehensive annual vegetation management program across its rail network" and that safety "is integral to CP's long-term success and the foundation of everything we do."

The email did not specifically address the Saskatoon situation.

"It's sad. So disappointing," SOS Trees board member Richard Kerbes said of the tree cutting.

"These trees added to the ecological value of the site. They were valuable to the city."

Bob Patrick, an associate professor in the University of Saskatchewan's department of geography and planning, called CP's actions "bizarre."

Trees provide tremendous value to cities, moderating temperature and pollution, Patrick said, and it's hard to see how this could be justified.

"This is a big deal. How could something like that happen on that scale? Someone's got to explain why this happened."

Trees were also removed on the other side of the tracks.

Melanie Vanderlinde, vice-president of Saskatoon's North Park Richmond Heights Community Association, said she was shocked to see that CP Rail had removed an estimated 2,000 healthy trees from her neighbourhood. (Don Somers/CBC)

Colleen Steele of the City Park Community Association says she was extremely disappointed.

"It feels like another example of how CP disregards the communities they move through," Steele said.

Vanderlinde and others wonder why the trees are being removed now, when they've been there for decades.

They agree vegetation must be removed if it's too close to rail lines, but said most of the trees were nowhere near the train tracks.

"I don't think that the whole embankment needed to be cut," Vanderlinde said.

"I agree the sightlines need to be maintained for the train and safety is No. 1. But they didn't need to take it all the way down."


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