NCC's poor communication on tree cutting plan under fire

The National Capital Commission is being criticized for not properly consulting with Britannia residents, fuelling anxiety that hundreds of trees would be cut down along a neighbourhood bike path.

The raised NCC bike path, which sits along the banks of Britannia Bay, protects nearby streets from spring flooding.

The wall on the river side of the path has started to deteriorate, and the NCC has said that leaves the community at risk of flooding during the spring thaw.

Residents say they agree the wall needs to be fixed, but they've had a difficult time getting information from the NCC about the repairs, which will take place on the pathway between Burland Street and Maplehurst Avenue. 

After 207 trees in the area were marked with red paint, fears started to swirl.

Hillary Johnstone/CBC

44 trees to be removed, says NCC

"[The NCC] dropped the ball in terms of community consultation. It leaves a bad taste in our mouths," said Alex Cullen, president of the Belltown Neighbours Association.

Cullen said when residents asked to meet with the NCC, they were only given one day's notice for an on-site walk through.

They were then told tree cutting would start the very next day.

"There was a lot of confusion," Cullen said. "We wanted the opportunity to see the plans and understand what's going on."

As it turns out, only 44 trees will be cut down, not hundreds, according to the NCC.

The area's MP, Anita Vandenbeld, said although the site visit was helpful, the NCC needs to do a better job at consulting with communities.

"I remember getting people sending me Facebook messages [saying], 'They're gonna cut 1,000 trees!'" Vandenbeld told CBC.

"Had [consultation] been done earlier — and I do think it should have been done earlier — I think a lot of this would have been dispelled."

Construction work to start in early December

Vandenbeld said it was important for the NCC to not just "send one-way communication" like emails or bulletins, but also grant residents the opportunity to share feedback.

In an email to CBC, an NCC spokesperson said the agency "listened to the community and responded to their concerns, including providing notification to neighbourhood associations and a site visit to explain to area residents the scope and purpose of the work."

In a letter to residents, the NCC said major construction work would start in early December.

An assessment "has concluded that no adverse environmental effects are expected from the rehabilitation work," the letter said.