Below is the administrative response, which I requested, to Shane Mitchell, president of the Olde Walkerville Residents’ Association, regarding his association’s wish to preserve the mid-block trees in the Walkerville Business District.
This is a response to your e-mails addressed to Thom Hunt (City Planner), Jake Rondot (WBIA), Alan Halberstadt (Ward Councillor), and Jane He (Engineer, and Project Manager for the Wyandotte BIA (WBIA) Road Improvements & Streetscaping). It was requested that we (Bill Roesel, the Manager of Forestry and Horticulture and Stefan Fediuk, Landscape Architect) explain the decisions to remove the existing trees along Wyandotte Rd East in the Walkerville District BIA. As you are aware from your dealings with us through the development process on other projects, neither of us are readily inclined to remove trees from development without good rationale, especially street trees. Trust as professionals that the decision for removal has not been done hastily nor without research and compromise on our part.
We admit that at the beginning of the project, we had considered retaining the existing trees our decision to remove the existing trees was also influenced by the Provincial standard to construct and maintain sidewalks for accessibility for all (both “abled” and “otherly-abled”). Initially, there had been some dialogue with the WBIA to possibly create bump-outs midblock to achieve this, but after meeting with the WBIA members, it was determined that parking space reduction was to be minimized. That left the addition of midblock trees out of the question, and those existing trees (especially on the north side of Wyandotte) were in direct conflict with the need to comply with the accessibility requirements. Additionally moving the trees out from the building to create accessibility would have resulted in the trees need to be moved or cut down and the result would have been the same.
We conducted an assessment of the current tree stock along Wyandotte Street in the WBIA and determined that many of the trees were either dead, dying or suffering from the extreme urban conditions to which they were being exposed. For clarity, in our expertise we define suffering as displaying of any of the following conditions a) poor or small leafing patterns, b) witches’ brooms (short concentrated growth), c) an abundant of tip kill, d) unnatural exfoliation of bark, e) excessive seeding, or f) asymmetrical growth, to mention a few symptoms.
As mentioned the former streetscape installations of the 1980’s, did not employ adequate techniques for the survival of urban trees due the practice’s infancy. Soil volumes were insufficient with the 4’x 6’x 24” (48 cu ft) tree pits. You will note in the historic photo that you provided, the trees that line Wyandotte Street East are in grassed boulevards, which is an ideal condition for root growth (large soil volumes) and moisture penetration by open areas. Unfortunately, those conditions no longer exist in the Walkerville BIA so we require more engineered methods to ensure the health and survival of trees in the urban environment. This is why we were directed by the WBIA to use the methods which were employed along the recent streetscaping of Wyandotte Street West. As a result we are using both raised planters and subsurface planting pits to achieve a larger soil volume (7’x20’x 40”(490 cu ft)) for each of the trees being installed, to ensure a successful and quicker establishment of the new trees to be planted at the bump-outs at each corner in the WBIA.
As you indicated in your response to Councilor Halberstadt’s reply, I concur that new midblock trees with the Strata/Silva Cell technology would be a great improvement but the maintenance of parking as requested by the WBIA precludes that from the design. Aside from the additional funding for the bump outs, concrete paving, permeable pavers, new trees, soil and StrataCell, there are several factors that would need to be achieved, including; dealing with the parking issue, could any healthy trees survive the construction and lastly the room needed is not available without substantial widening of sidewalk area and the funds to accomplish this). I appreciate the image you sent from Greenwich Village in New York City, however there are different accessibility requirements there than in Windsor which we are required to comply with.
As for the OWRA’s similarity to other recent streetscape projects in the city (i.e. Pelissier and Ouellette) which have used a completely different technology of structural soils, we (Bill and Stefan) have conducted our own review and concur that the trees that were retained using this method are not doing as well as hoped. In fact, even the newly planted ones are displaying symptoms of suffering as identified earlier. After already trying to preserve these trees, we have not been successful and some are declining at a rate that indicates that the nutrients in the soil have been expended and our efforts were too late. As the trees along the BIA of Walkerville, were either planted at the same time and showing similar symptoms, or have already been removed or replaced (at least once) we selected to start fresh with larger trees (3 inch caliper), with tree species which are capable of withstanding urban pollutants and salt spray, with a method (sub-surface soil retention system) proven to have much stronger results in re-establishing an urban forest. The city continues to look at technologies for planting trees in the hardscape commercial environments.
We trust that this explains our decision to remove the existing trees along the WBIA.
Stefan Fediuk, M.Land.Arch, B.E.S., OALA, CSLA, Landscape Architect, City of Windsor
Bill Roesel, B.Sc.F., RPF, Manager of Forestry & Horticulture, City of Windsor