Some residents of Central McDougall and other Edmonton neighbourhoods are understandably upset by the removal of several mature elm trees from the future North LRT to NAIT right-of-way around 105 Street and 108 Avenue.
Removing trees for any reason is an unfortunate necessity that no one takes lightly. The City has a mandate to remove as few trees as possible, but when it comes to building major infrastructure like the North LRT this type of impact is inevitable. However, there are best practices to mitigate the loss of trees and ensure the required removals are conducted in a sustainable manner.
First and foremost is the landscaping plan for the North LRT. This project will add far more trees and foliage to Edmonton streets than it takes away, and enhance the health and growing conditions of existing trees. Check out the North LRT Project History web page for a look at the project’s landscaping plan documents, like this one for 108 Ave and 104 Street.
Public involvement during the concept planning phase (see document at the bottom of the North LRT Project History) identified the elm trees north of 107 Ave on 105 Street as a highly valued community asset. The City was able to minimize the number of trees that absolutely must be removed, but obviously trees that would be standing in the middle of the North LRT tracks have to go. Small and medium-sized trees are being relocated; trees that are too large to relocate must be removed.
Keeping the majority of the mature elm trees in place is not a simple matter. Trees pose risks to LRT, from branches falling or growing into overhead power cables, or fallen twigs and leaves clogging the tracks and compromising a train’s braking ability. That’s why the North LRT team devised a canopy structure that will protect the LRT catenary lines and trackway from these risks. The LRT will travel below the canopy, allowing the City to keep more than 25 of the mature elm trees on 105 Street.
Practicing sustainability also means finding ways to convert a loss into a gain. Some of the elm trees must be removed, but a strategy is in place to salvage and recycle wood from the removed trees.
Logs and branches will be donated to an Edmonton school to build a “naturescape” project at a local schoolyard. As students, teachers and parents build park benches and artworks (possibly a tree fort) this summer, the kids will learn about where the wood comes from, and how recycling trees preserves Edmonton’s heritage. Wood unsuitable for the project will be chipped for use in tree wells throughout the City, or composted.
As for Central McDougall, the North LRT is quite literally transforming this area of Edmonton. In the short term, parts of this neighbourhood will look like a construction zone, and to be frank the impacts have only just begun. But within three years the communities surrounding the North LRT are going to have more green spaces, a landscaped multi-use trail and state-of-the-art LRT.
Taking a longer view, the North LRT will take cars off the road, reduce Edmonton’s environmental footprint, and improve the overall health of the city, especially once the line is extended to St. Albert. By removing a few trees for major transportation infrastructure projects, Edmontonians are improving the city for everyone for generations to come.
For more information please visit www.edmonton.ca/nlrt, contact the LRT Message Centre at 780-496-4874 or email firstname.lastname@example.org