News / Winnipeg

Few trees spared at Parker Lands a 'small victory,' advocate says

The chairperson of the Parker Wetlands Conservation Committee was able to save about a dozen mature oak trees on the weekend, but not enough, he said.

In this composite image, the Google streetview (left) shows the thick tree line Cal Dueck noticed was suddenly much thinner on the weekend (right).

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In this composite image, the Google streetview (left) shows the thick tree line Cal Dueck noticed was suddenly much thinner on the weekend (right).

Cal Dueck has been trying to save the forest on the Parker Lands from destruction for so long, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when a “wide swath of trees” was “mowed down,” but it did.

“I noticed Saturday, just all of a sudden they were missing,” said Dueck, chairperson of the Parker Wetlands conservation committee. “My heart sank.”

Dueck is one of a handful of Winnipeggers who continues to oppose rapid transit development intersecting the natural wetlands and forest strip along Parker Avenue between Pembina Highway and Waverley Street.

After a quiet winter, Dueck was caught off guard by “sudden” deforestation on the weekend.

He was out for a walk when he heard a tractor Saturday and rushed over, “confronted the driver, and said ‘this is way too much.’”

“He stopped, called some people… got everyone out there,” Dueck said.

Among those responding to the impassioned resident’s plea to stop what he regarded as “just trashing the whole forest,” was area Coun. John Orlikow.

He conceded that it can be a “horrific sight when the mulchers (sic) go into a forested area,” but the city and its contractors, including PCL, are “always going to try to save as many trees as we can.”

Dueck said both that sentiment and the city policy to plant new trees elsewhere to replace those lost means little when the trees being removed “aren’t being harvested properly.”

“They could have been used for all kinds of interesting lumber work, that kind of thing, but it was all just shredded and chopped into the ground… it will all be hauled away to some landfill,” he said.

Orlikow said he knows Dueck would have liked to have seen more of the mature oak trees harvested or removed other ways, but he’s “not sure how feasible that would have been to go in and cut it down.”

But still, Dueck intervening when he did had some influence on the project.

“We got them to put a hold on about 10-15 mature oak trees on the front of the property and they’re going to look at some re-engineering, if needed, to see if we can’t get the bike trail to go around those trees,” Orlikow said, adding that in his vision for a butterfly reserve and walking trail in the area, maintaining “the green element as much as we can” remains a priority.

Dueck called saving the trees a “small victory,” but he lamented he “could have saved maybe a half dozen more at least if I had only been there sooner.”

“It’s frustrating we have to fight for every single little thing,” he said.

He’s hoping to bring more attention to the impact of the development in the area with a rally he’s planning for some time in April, like on Earth Day April 22.

“We want to get people together to continue the push to get the council more interested in the forest,” he said, noting some of the century-old trees should warrant “heritage site” designation, which he feels could save more from being removed.

“It’s one of the only remaining wetlands and natural aspen forests left in the city… still the largest green space left,” he said. “To destroy that is unacceptable in 2017… completely unacceptable.”

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