Windsor

Planting trees at Windsor International Airport was a 'mistake'

A community group is seeking a refund on tree planting controversy at Windsor International Airport, but ERCA says it just wants to move forward without compensation.

'It's unfortunate this project ended the way it did,' says ERCA general manager

Kieran McKenzie points to where thousands of trees were planted east of the main terminal at Windsor International Airport. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Thousands of trees were planted on the Windsor International Airport property in 2014 to link woodlots and create a seamless habitat for wildlife. But once the trees were planted, they were neglected and died.

In 2013, the Essex Regional Conservation Authority (ERCA) received a grant from Trees Ontario, a government program that has since been cut. The grant was backed by community groups including the Little River Enhancement Group and the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup group.

Approximately 2.5 hectares (6 acres) of trees were planted east of the main terminal at Windsor's airport. After planting, ERCA wasn't permitted to go on the property to look after the trees.

The tree project was meant to join the gap between these two woodlots on the airport's property. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

At a city council meeting on Monday, the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup group inquired about a possible refund of the $30,000 used to plant the trees.

ERCA was not at the meeting, but told CBC it's not interested in restitution.

"The [financial] support came from a lot of different sources," said general manager of ERCA Richard Wyma. "It's unfortunate this project ended the way it did, certainly not the way that we had hoped. But at the same time, the City of Windsor has been and will continue to be a great partner of ours as we undertake projects like this."

Chalking it up to a mistake

Trying to boost wildlife on the airport property might have been a 'misguided decision', said Kieran McKenzie, city councillor, member of the Windsor Essex County Environmental Committee, board member of ERCA and Windsor airport board of directors.

"The trees were creating habitat that could make it quite unsafe for airport operations," said McKenzie. "There are all kinds of wildlife in the forests on the airport land as we speak. That could have a very serious and potentially disastrous impact on airport operations.

Richard Wyma is the General Manager of ERCA. He says the organisation wants to move forward with the city on new projects and doesn't want restitution. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"I think it's fair to say that the tree planting project at the airport was a mistake. It's a mistake that a lot of us who are very concerned about natural habitat and the environment general. We want to learn from that and develop strategies moving forward in order to not repeat those mistakes of the past."

Wyma said there is a "general consensus" at ERCA for the community to move forward and close this chapter of tree planting.

"There was a lot of great support for the project at the time and again we appreciate that things change and we need to move on," said Wyma. "Our goal, rather than seeking restitution and trying to find those dollars, as let's make sure that we can find those dollars in the future where there's another project," said Wyma.

McKenzie said planting trees remains a priority in Windsor-Essex, but they have to be planted in the right places.

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