A group of Laval citizens is upset and confused about what they call the "unnecessary" loss of a beloved local trail. A large section of a natural preserve was clear-cut to make way for an express bus lane along avenue des Bois in Laval. Though some parts of the forest required cutting as per authorization by the ARTM and both the Ministries of Environment and Transport, citizens say the city went too far and "uselessly clearcut one of the best trails in the city."
Residents started a website to raise awareness and petitioned the Quebec government to save what's left of their local trail. Members of the group Maxime Cyr and Jonathan Tremblay reached out to MTL Blog to voice their concerns.
"There was a very nice little wood with mature trees, a stream, wildlife, and a very nice path opened all year round," Cyr explained.
"This nice path was destroyed and closed, without any notice, and the trees were cuts down in very large areas. We were in shock."
Laval city officials explained to MTL Blog that all the work is necessary and is being done with the utmost respect to the environment.
Construction around this wooded area is ongoing due to the closure of the Deux-Montagnes train line and the nearby REM line construction.
According to the City of Laval, the express bus lane along avenue des Bois was needed as a "mitigation measure" because the street wasn't wide enough to support the influx of vehicle traffic.
"Cutting trees is never taken lightly, as are the sustainable mobility needs of citizens," said Virginie Dufour, Laval's executive council member responsible for environmental issues.
Residents, however, are incredibly troubled by not only the clear-cutting but by what they say is the lack of communication by everyone involved in the project.
"We are not against the REM nor the express bus lane," Cyr underlined. "We are against doing useless damage to the environment, against the city and government doing projects without announcing them."
The city "estimated that 1,800 to 2,250 trees and shrubs were cut down."
Tremblay claims that it took the city over two weeks after they cut down the trees to consult residents.
He says he and his neighbours still have a lot of unanswered questions.
"We lost our park and pathway for a temporary solution that will come in one year from now."
Laval city councillor Nicholas Borne sympathizes with the concerns of the citizens and agreed that "communication has to be improved."
"We've installed signs at the beginning of the path. We will also send another letter to residents once the contract is officially given. We are now studying the different offers and eventually, ARTM will have to give the final ok, followed by the City of Laval," he told MTL Blog.
Laval also confirmed that some "3,520 trees and 5,280 shrubs will be planted in the fallow land and wood affected by the cut, as well as in the river bank."
Despite that commitment, both Cyr and Tremblay say that "damage has been done."
"These trees cannot simply be replaced and the area will take decades to repair itself," said Cyr.
The citizens' petition to the government asks that officials commit to "informing the citizens of their intentions regarding deforestation," fully "[assessing] environmental damage," and "protect, maintain, and revitalize the trail entirely after the road work by replanting the forest cover massively for future years."
The petition has gained over 500 signatures.
Work on the express bus lane and reconstruction begins in June and will continue over the course of 12 months.