The City of Charlottetown is considering which trees should return to Victoria Park and which should not, to help protect the area from damage in future wind storms.
Hundreds of trees, if not thousands, came down in the city's largest park during post-tropical storm Fiona at the end of September. Recovery work inside the urban forest has not yet begun.
"It's pretty heartbreaking. I mean, people have a long connection to those trees. That park is really well used," said Prince Edward Island forestry expert Gary Schneider.
"It's like old friends have been knocked over."
Schneider is the supervisor of the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project near Vernon Bridge, which is focused on restoring P.E.I.'s natural forests. Last month he submitted a report to the city suggesting what it needs to consider as it looks at restoring Victoria Park.
He surveyed the damage before preparing the report, and estimates more than a quarter of the trees in the park came down.
Schneider is trying to see patterns in what has survived.
"My initial reaction is I want to hang my head and cry, when I see things like this," said Schneider.
I want to hang my head and cry, when I see things like this... [but] can we actually build a better forest? Can we put in more diversity?' — Gray Schneider
"But I always try to figure out, can we use this for something? Can we actually build a better forest? Can we put in more diversity?
"Can we put in deeper-rooted trees and stronger-rooted trees that might be — or should be — hardier or tougher against these strong wind conditions?"
Victoria Park had a lot of white birch trees before the storm — too many, Schneider said. White birch is typically found in young forests. It grows quickly in good light, but typically gives way to other species as a forest matures.
There were lindens, a non-native species with relatively shallow root systems, and also Norway maples, another non-native tree.
Norway maples were very popular in the 20th century. They grew easily and seemed to have few pests, but in this century many have succumbed to disfiguring tar spot. In addition, the wood is brittle, leaving trees vulnerable to breaking apart in recent windstorms.
"We live in a windy place, so I think people are changing their mind about how valuable those trees are," said Schneider.
Schneider's report recommends more red oak, sugar maple and yellow birch. He is also suggesting what he calls armouring around the edges of the park. This armour would consist of shrubs and smaller trees that would serve to blunt the wind's force as it passes through the park's forest.
It will take decades to implement the plan, said Schneider, and the complicated process will require annual reviews of how the forest looks as the trees grow.
City officials say staff from the Parks and Recreation Department are reviewing Schneider's restoration plan.