Tree trade: Locals protest cutting 600 trees for Falaise St-Jacques, but province promises 3,000 more

The new plan for the Falaise St-Jacques has been unveiled, and it’s supposed to transform the area around the Turcot into a green mecca that can also be used for bike paths.

Locals have pointed out that the process of getting there, however, holds an irony—Quebec’s Ministry of Transportation will have to chop down hundreds of trees.

“The trees are being cut down to re-create a wetlands that already exists,” said Lisa Mintz, who lives nearby.

“I mean, it’s right here. There’s no need to recreate it… there’s no need to cut down trees, because it’s working just fine with the trees here.”

Mintz said she’s happy that more of her neighbours will have access to a backyard wilderness, but the one already standing there shouldn't need to be sacrificed.

She describes the escarpment as an orphaned urban wilderness and she’s lobbying, as part of a group called “Sauvons la Falaise,” to keep it as it is.

Provincial officials say that they need to seize this moment after the construction of the Turcot. 

“With the changing of the [Turcot] project overall, with the interchange, the highways and also the REM… it was possible to give back to people,” said Martin Girard of the Transport Ministry.

It’s necessary to cut down 600 trees to make the project happen, he said.

“It’s for the drainage of the area and to make sure that the falaise will be stable” for the greenbelt planned there, he said.

Roughly a fifth of the trees are dead or dying, he said, and the ministry plans to plant nearly 3,000 trees and 20,000 shrubs to replace the loss.

Mintz says the escarpment vegetation that’s grown there naturally has its own value, and she says that, even though it’s under-appreciated, it can be used for educational purposes.

“The people who live in this area have no idea it’s here, and we have some of the most underserved populations—NDG and [the] southwest,” she said.

According to the current plan, work will begin at the end of this year and the transformed space should be accessible to the public by 2022.

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