Yellow ribbons highlight local fight in Lawrence Park

Area residents aim to save the trees; sidewalks still contentious


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On streets like Mildenhall Road and Dawlish Avenue, yellow ribbons tied around the trunks of old trees serve as a stark reminder to residents that the park-like feel of Lawrence Park is currently at risk.

In 2013, the City of Toronto began planning an overhaul of the area’s sewer system to mitigate storm water and basement flooding, forcing city staff to come up with a design to reconstruct 26 local streets.

More than 100 trees stand to be affected by the current construction plan, with sidewalks proposed for five streets in an area that has gone without them for more than 100 years.

The local residents’ association has endeavoured to convince the city to spare more of the neighbourhood’s tree canopy. The Lawrence Park Ratepayers’ Association (LPRA) had commissioned an arborist report and a door-to-door survey by Forum Research Inc. late last year.

According to Phillip Crawley, LPRA member and publisher and CEO of the Globe and Mail, Forum Research polled 500 households on the east side of Lawrence Park in September 2016 and found only 32 per cent supported the proposed plan. The findings were presented to city staff in November.

“The way the city presented it was there was a risk that anything between 78 and 251 trees could be affected by the work that was being proposed,” said Crawley. “And a clear majority of our respondents said, ‘No, that’s not acceptable.’ ”

The poll also addressed questions pertaining to sidewalks and sewer installations.

“Only a quarter found it extremely or very important that their families had sidewalks to walk on in the neighbourhood,” he said.

Crawley said the association anticipates the city’s revised proposal will be presented to its public works and infrastructure committee in April. 

John Gill, a former member of LPRA and a local resident, plans to attend the committee meeting. However, he said he intends to make a presentation outlining the need for sidewalks and accessibility throughout the neighbourhood. 

Gill argued the Forum Research survey only targeted people living on those streets directly affected by the construction. “So you’re going to have a very particular bias for those results,” he said. 

However, the city’s survey for the environmental assessment asked all of Lawrence Park. “In that poll [in 2013], pedestrian safety was the number one concern,” Gill said.

The public works and infrastructure committee is scheduled to meet April 12.

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