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These downtown trees surrounded by asphalt are raising eyebrows. Here's the city's explanation

City officials said a couple of downtown trees with their base covered in asphalt will survive — the move is a temporary safety measure.  (TJ Dhir/CBC - image credit)
City officials said a couple of downtown trees with their base covered in asphalt will survive — the move is a temporary safety measure. (TJ Dhir/CBC - image credit)

If you've noticed a couple of downtown trees with fresh asphalt at their base, city officials say not to worry — the trees will be fine.

Two trees near the intersection of Ouellette and University Avenues have a fresh layer of asphalt surrounding the thin tree trunks.

The city said it was added in response to safety concerns from exposed roots and uneven sidewalk.

"Regarding the tree's health, we are very conscious of that, it's only a thin layer about an inch thin of temporary asphalt, the cold mix," said Phong Nguy, manager of operations in the city's public works department.

"Just take a shovel and five minutes it's out. I am no tree killer."

Residents around downtown Tuesday took a look at the tree — and said it didn't seem to make much sense.

"You wouldn't think trees really grow that well like that," said Evan Gignac. "The trees would be looking nice if they were surrounded by mulch or grass or whatever, but not really a good look."

Others were more direct: "Take the asphalt off, put a grate around the tree and actually fix the roads," said Brooke Lucier.

TJ Dhir/CBC
TJ Dhir/CBC

But, Nguy said asphalt at the base of trees isn't the start of a wider trend. The trees will survive, because a cold-mix asphalt was used instead of hot tar, which would have killed the tree.

The City of Windsor's forest division is creating the first-ever urban forest management plan, with a virtual open house planned for Wednesday night. Residents are invited to tune in and give their input on what they'd like to see when it comes to city trees.

According to a 2020 city report, 16 per cent of Ward 3 was covered in trees, which is the third-lowest in the city. Ward 10 has just 10 per cent tree coverage. On the other hand, nearly a third of Ward 1 is covered by trees.

Ward 3 Coun. Renaldo Agostino said some people had reached out to him about the asphalted trees.

"This is not like a new solution, this is really dealing with public safety because the trip hazards were out there, and in fact we're about to start a streetscaping project on University Avenue," Agostino said. "This is the best answer and solution in between."