By Krishika Jethani –
Metrolinx is insisting on removing 61 trees in the south end of Moss Park to construct the 15.6-km Ontario Line subway. The Ontario Line is to run from Exhibition Place through downtown, and end at the Ontario Science Centre.
According to the provincial agency’s vegetation guideline, it plans to replace all trees it cuts down to maintain a green environment. That hasn’t appeased some critics.
“You can’t replace 70-year-old healthy, mature trees with saplings, and expect that to have the same environmental effect,” says resident Diane Devenyi, who has lived across from Moss Park for a decade. “From what I can see as a lay person, the trees that have been replanted in the sidewalk most recently are the unhealthy trees.”
The Moss Park Coalition, a group of residents and community activists, including Devenyi, tried contacting Metrolinx but responses have been vague, she says. “It’s been very disheartening.”
“Who are the decision makers? How do we actually speak with them? Because if the conversations we’re having are only with people who have no influence whatsoever on decisions that are being made, then all of the time spent has not been productive.”
Metrolinx put up fences around the perimeter of the targeted trees, but residents recently noticed that all fences came down. “We don’t know whether the timeline has changed or whether the plan is under review,” expressed Devenyi.
But in an emailed response to the bridge, Metrolinx stated that the “fence was damaged and removed on January 19 and that a replacement fence will be installed.” Pressed further, the spokesperson said, “the public [will be] informed when we have further details.”
On the morning of January 31, crews were seen rebuilding the fencing along the southern portion of the park. No additional comments from Metrolinx were received.
The coalition’s main request is to pause the Ontario Line plans so a third party can acknowledge community concerns.
Destroying the trees will affect the community environmentally as well as emotionally. “Temperatures will inevitably rise without those trees, and they are also important in the ecosystem for water management,” Devenyi said.
The Moss Park Coalition is looking into creating an online petition to spread the word and garner support for the trees.
Metrolinx’s Environmental Impact Assessment Report was published in April 2022 describing the environmental impacts of trees and vegetation. It says there will be regular inspection on the area and no damage will be caused to the remaining trees and vegetation communities. Devenyi has been asking the agency for an arborist report but has not received a response – which is not “unusual,” she said.
“I don’t have faith in their plans to rebuild or replant. One only needs to look at Regent Park and walk through that development to see that it feels pretty much like a concrete jungle,” she added.
Metrolinx’s website states that it will try to avoid impacts to “existing transit services as much as possible” while also “communicating early and often about any temporary impacts to roadways and transit lines.” However, Devenyi questions Metrolinx’s lack of communication.
“The health bus will come and stop on the south side of the park to provide services [but] not one organization or group was informed of what the plan was for the park,” she explained. The Bike Share station, also on the south side, has to be moved to a place that would not be affected by construction.