Oops! Charity trees were planted on city development land

A young oak tree takes in the sunlight on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 on a charity planting site near Boundary Road in Cornwall, Ont. Up to 300 trees were planted on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 -- some in an area actually earmarked for city tourism development. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Up to 300 trees – part of a charity planting program – were stuck in the ground on a piece of land poised for city waterfront development.

The trees were planted Sept. 21 by dozens of volunteers on a wedge of land on the south side of County Road 2, west of the mouth of Gray’s Creek, as part of TD Tree Days with the Raisin Region Conservation Authority (RRCA).

The land, east of the Boundary Road boat launch, is actually earmarked in the city’s waterfront plan for tourism-related development. It’s also a section of land where the grass is cut on a regular basis.

A section of land on the south side of County Road 2, east of Boundary Road, is covered in young trees, planted on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 as part of TD Tree Days. The land is actually owned by the city and was already earmarked for tourism development as part of its waterfront plan. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Parks and Recreation Division Manager Jamie Fawthrop says the mistake was the result of a misunderstanding by the conservation authority.

“I think they (the RRCA) had believed they were putting them in a location that would be suitable to the city and I think (they) weren’t maybe quite aware of (the waterfront development plan)…which has development proposals for that property, specifically some of the space in which they planted these trees,” Fawthrop said.

Fawthrop says the RRCA had approval to plant last year for an area further up the creek, closer to the shore near the County Road 2 bridge, which happened “without issue.” He believes, with staff turnover at the conservation authority, there was a misunderstanding that “(last year’s) approval covered this area as well.”

Fawthrop says he has met on site with the RRCA about the trees to figure out which ones may need to be moved before they grow too big. “If there is a conflict, now is the time to shuffle these trees around a little bit. We don’t want to be cutting down these trees in four or five years.”

A check of the City of Cornwall Waterfront Plan shows, in actual fact, a vast majority of the trees are planted in an area covered by a footprint for a proposed pavilion, picnic area and seating along the waterfront trail.

This diagram from the 2019 City of Cornwall Waterfront Plan shows a pavilion and picnic area slated for an area east of the Boundary Road boat launch. The area was planted with trees as part of a charity program, something a city official says was a misinterpretation. (City of Cornwall via Newswatch Group)

“There are other areas within in same location which could use some additional plantings so I think we are able to work something out.” A possible area is a strip of land closer to the dock on the south side of the parking lot, which could help with erosion.

With the waterfront plan covering several years, Fawthrop says they have time on their side but it will be up to the RRCA to move the plantings.

Fawthrop says the city will likely scale back grass cutting in the area temporarily to protect the infant trees until they are moved.

The parks manager says this mistake has actually created an opportunity to partner with the RRCA and work more closely with the city to find areas where planting can occur, such as in naturalized areas. “We’re going to start identifying these areas and touring with them and then we can coordinate this kind of work such that they don’t have to worry about this kind of conflict…in the future.”

Conservation authority says ‘no issues’ with planting error

The tree planting community liaison with the RRCA, Lissa Deslandes, dismissed the issue when contacted by Cornwall Newswatch on Friday (Sept. 27).

Deslandes said there were “no issues” and that the RRCA would be working with the city to “incorporate the trees into that design.”

“There’s not really any story there,” Deslandes added.