'We were horrified': MVA trail expansion criticised by park enthusiast

Expansion to the Meewasin Valley Authority's walking path between Queen and Duke has some Saskatoon residents shaking their heads.

Removal of vegetation meant to improve foot traffic safety in most heavily used area, MVA says

Trees have been cut down to make room for the expansion of the trail. (Submitted by Richard Kerbes)

If you've been along Saskatoon's Spadina Crescent East recently, you've probably noticed less vegetation along the river.

It's part of a project by the Meewasin Valley Authority to expand the trail along the route between Queen Street and Duke Street from two metres to about six.

Although contractors started clearing the area of trees last week, some community members said the destruction of greenery has taken them by surprise.

"We were horrified at what they were doing," Richard Kerbes said.

Kerbes has been a resident in the area for 25 years. He says many of his neighbours feel the same way.

"The green wall is just thinned out," he added. "It just doesn't make any sense. It's as if they're putting another roadway there."

A view of the vegetation along the Meewasin trail before the trees were cut down. (Submitted by Richard Kerbes)

Upgrade meant to improve safety

Alan Otterbein, manager of design and development with the Meewasin Valley Authority, said the trail upgrade is meant to improve overall safety.

"It had the highest volumes [of foot traffic], it's one of our oldest section of trails, it's quite narrow, and there's some sections that aren't accessible," explained Otterbein.

He said that particular stretch was the top candidate out of a list of ten for a trail upgrade.

A pile of trees have been cut down along the Meewasin trail along Spadina Crescent East between Queen and Duke Street, waiting to be hauled away. (Submitted by Richard Kerbes)

According to Otterbein, they went through all the necessary measures to get the project approved including holding a public open house and going through the City of Saskatoon.

"The reality is, for anytime we either upgrade or build new trails, there's certainly impacts on the landscape," he added.

"We try and mitigate that as much as possible but you're widening the trail to double and planning for a six metre wide trail in this section, so there's really no way around it."

Otterbein said the cost of the project is covered by an annual fund of $250,000 from the city for trail upgrades as well as a Canada 150 community infrastructure grant.

Once the trail is completed in the fall, Otterbein said the group plans to take their renovations south into the downtown area.