'People were in tears': Tree loss for Stage 2 LRT upsets residents

Some people who live near the western extension of Ottawa's light rail project say they're horrified by the number of trees that have already been cut down.

Tree and vegetation clearing has already started along the future route to Moodie Drive and Algonquin College, including on Connaught Avenue and sections of the Byron Linear Park.

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Marie O'Sullivan, whose home is next to Connaught Park, said at a Tuesday evening public LRT meeting it was devastating to watch as mature trees were recently taken down.

"It was horrible actually. It was like the death of many friends. And I know many people felt that way. People were in tears as they came by our house," she said.

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The city has said it will aim to plant two trees for every one that is removed during LRT development, expected to take until 2025 for this section west of Tunney's Pasture station. 

On Tuesday, Bay Coun. Theresa Kavanagh pressed for clarification about the definition of a tree during the finance and economic development committee (FEDCO) meeting at City Hall. 

Kavanagh said city staff have told her any tree that is 10 centimetres or more in diameter will eventually be replaced with two trees that are at least seven centimetres in diameter.

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"It's natural that we're going to lose trees … and it's heartbreaking," she said.

"But the other thing to remember ... is that where the train is going, the Transitway which is being used now [for buses] will be naturalized after. So there will be some gain there."

More information sessions planned

Dozens of people attended the first of five city-wide public drop-in information sessions on the $4.7 billion LRT Stage 2 project on Tuesday evening at the Ukranian Orthodox Cathedral on Byron Avenue, and the loss of trees was a top concern for many.

Other residents there said they understand the loss of trees is inevitable.

"There's no gain without pain," said Rise Paquette.

Paquette said she hasn't had many issues with the Confederation Line since she travels at off-peak times, and she's looking forward to having a station near her home in the future.

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The next public information session on Stage 2 of the LRT will be Thursday at Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex in Orléans from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.