‘A very sad day’: Anger, frustration as tree removal begins at Ontario Place

Tree removal at Ontario Place begins as the province moves ahead with redevelopment plans. Melissa Nakhavoly speaks to concerned community members.

Anger and frustration at Ontario Place, one day after work began to remove trees from the site as part of the Ford government’s redevelopment plan.

Critics of the province’s plan for the reimagined waterfront park say they are shocked by the lack of care and transparency taking place. Video posted to social media shows an excavator ripping branches off of trees as part of the demolition process started on Saturday.

“Nobody was aware this was going to take place, they hacked the trees down with an excavator,” said Norm Di Pasquale, the co-chair of the advocacy group Ontario Place for All. “So imagine this excavator ripping limb from limb off the tree, literally ripping them off of the site.”

“The lack of care in the work that they’ve done is frankly shocking”

The work comes after the Ford government put forth a motion last week that bypasses key debate and public hearings regarding the Ontario Place redevelopment plan. The motion is set for a vote on Tuesday and will pass given the government’s majority in the legislature.

“There’s a lack of transparency, a lack of heads up,” said Di Pasquale. “They shut down the marina with one day’s notice. They put a fence up blocking cyclists and joggers who want to go from Trillium Park to West Island, again no notice at all. Just an utter lack of care. I wouldn’t want these people working on my house, much less on Ontario Place.”

Ontario Place for All has been calling on the Ford government to reverse its decision to build a private spa on the West Island. It filed an injunction last month calling for a pause on development until an environmental assessment is conducted, claiming the government’s plan will obliterate the “naturalized ecosystem on the West Island that has evolved over the past 50 years.”

“Stop this terrible plan. Everybody was just devastated seeing this backhoe ripping the limbs off this mature tree. Nobody wants to see this happen,” said Di Pasquale. “They’ve reversed course on the Green Belt and there’s still time to reverse course on this. There are alternatives for where the spa can go – Ontario Place is not the right fit for a mega spa.”

Ontario Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma has said twice as many trees will be planted for every tree that is removed.

While there was no demolition work on Sunday, Ontario Place for All says they plan to keep monitoring the site and send out any alerts to try and preserve the mature trees still standing.

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