Tree removal update

Why did trees have to be removed?

Creek restoration, the cleanout and retrofit of stormwater management facilities, and work around natural features (lakes, wetlands) generally requires some removal of vegetation. This could be due to access requirements with large machinery, access routes to the work area, design requirements, or the infrastructure being installed as part of the new design. The project manager and forestry manager at the city work together to go over removals with the consulting team and contractor for each project (as well as any regulatory authorities, as needed). We make every effort to avoid vegetation removal where possible and do not plan to remove vegetation in areas where it is not necessary. Where a new creek meander or lake shoreline is planned, and existing trees interfere with the work, the trees are proposed for removal. Where trees are identified as significant, species at risk or heritage, additional consideration is given where the proposed plan can be altered.

Our urban waterways are dynamic systems that can change over time and this can create challenges where infrastructure becomes at risk or private property becomes impacted by changes over time. Waterloo is an urbanized environment and we are obligated to maintain the overall system to provide flood protection, infrastructure protection, resiliency and conveyance through the city.

What goes into consideration for tree removal? What about animals and habitats?

Vegetation removal is discussed throughout the process of project development from concept to construction. This is something that is considered when we go through Environmental Assessments (EA’s) as well as during the detailed design process and construction. This includes investigation and documentation of species onsite (this may include registration and documentation of species at risk, protection plans, bat and bird nesting surveys, invasive species), anticipated removals within the work zone and mitigation plans for trees identified as significant through our consultation period (from either residents, internal City staff or regulatory bodies).

As part of the new design, armourstone and rocky embankments along the edges of the lake will serve to reduce erosion into the lake, increase the longevity of the feature and provide delineation from proposed public use spaces in the design. This will not deter aquatic species or critters from growing or using the new space. There will be naturally vegetated areas included as part of the design and areas beyond the hard bank treatments will also be vegetated.

Why was so much clearing done on the West side around Laurel Creek?

The work on the West side of the park includes improvements to the section of Laurel Creek that runs through the park, installation of a new pedestrian bridge near the bandshell and creation of an upstream lake cell (upstream of the LRT crossing). The channel is being re-directed in specific areas to allow for more of a meander and access to the floodplain. This slows the water and creates opportunity for habitat once work is completed. The upstream lake cell is being created to provide a location for sediment accumulation ahead of the main lake so the city can maintain this feature more regularly and lengthen the time between larger lake cleanouts. We try to avoid removal of vegetation as much as possible and have re-designed in a couple instances to avoid mature trees, where space allowed. Some restoration work has already been done on sections of the channel that have already been completed. The remaining restoration work will occur in the spring in all areas disturbed by construction.

Why was so much clearing done on the East side near Silver Lake?

The work on the East side of the park includes improvements to Silver Lake. This includes dredging of built up material, reconfiguration of the shoreline, installation of a boardwalk on the south bank, a new pedestrian bridge connection near the grist mill, and an extension to the lookout near the bridge crossings. Silver Lake was over capacity with sediment build up and required a cleanout. The work upstream on the creek helps to slow the water and settle out excess material ahead of arriving at the lake. The current work on the lake will be limited to the area directly around the Lake and the parking lot at the north shore. We anticipate that the tender for the park component of the project (on the north bank of Silver Lake) will be released within the next month and a contractor will begin the landscaping components of the project this Spring.

What consideration was given to the willow trees by the Perimeter building and their value?

The area along the South bank of Silver Lake (near the Perimeter Institute) had many removals. Part of the objective of this construction project was to remove invasive vegetation species. The majority of the tree species along the south shoreline were invasive and have created some public safety concerns. The trees that were removed include the following:

  • Multiple willow species (Black and crack willow)
  • Manitoba maple
  • Norway maple
  • European buckthorn
  • Poplar species

The large willow trees near the PI building had many signs of decline due to poor health. Evidence of this was displayed through decay of wood, loss of limbs, exposed roots, historical pruning, and cracks formed in the trunks and branches of the trees. Evidence of previous pruning to these trees identified that a real risk of failing limbs exists, and thus posed a risk to safety if left and not removed. During the removal, arborists commented on how rotted the trunks were, and special care was needed to safely fell and remove the trees. Even if they could have been preserved, any construction works required to access the adjacent project areas (excavation and fill operations for the pathway and shoreline protection) would have placed additional stress on the already declining trees.

A grouping of trees along the southwest side of the lake have been retained near the deck platform, as well as other trees which do not interfere with the new shoreline and pathway alignment. Areas disturbed or cleared by construction will be replanted with a selection of native trees and plants.

Is the tree removal over now? Are the remaining trees “safe”?

Aside from any unforeseen circumstances, tree removals are complete for the Laurel creek and Silver Lake projects.

How long will it take to see improvements again after replanting?

The restoration planting will include the following species:

  • Tulip tree
  • Sugar maple
  • American Basswood
  • White Spruce
  • Bur Oak
  • Red Oak

Planting groups of multiple species of native shrubs and grasses are also planned. This mix of fast-growing and longer-maturing plants and trees should see significant growth within a couple of growing seasons, while allowing for mature trees to develop in the space again. It is expected that the replanting of this area will greatly improve the aesthetic appeal of the park and reduce the long term maintenance requirements of city staff. The new designs for the creek and lake should also reduce the impact of future work on the vegetation in this space.

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