The saga of the proposed Chine Drive sidewalk continues. This Scarborough road, which is the only access to the local elementary school, needs to be rebuilt for various reasons. The project was launched in 2004, but for many years it has been delayed by a dispute between local parents, who want a sidewalk added to create a safe walking route to the school, and some of the road’s residents, who oppose a sidewalk because they want to preserve the road’s “rural” feel.
Last year, the Environmental Assessment study for the project (PDF) was finally completed, and it recommended putting a sidewalk on one side of the road when it is rebuilt. To minimize the impact on property owners, the sidewalk would be incorporated into the current width of the roadway/shoulder, so it wouldn’t take any of the City right-of-way currently used by landowners.
That recommendation did not stop the opponents, however. They turned to nature to try to bolster their case. A story on 680 News featured a deer crossing the road, suggesting that kind of event would somehow be threatened by a sidewalk. It’s not clear that a deer would notice the difference between a sidewalk and a road, except perhaps that nothing on a sidewalk is likely to kill it.
Then a gardening columnist in the Toronto Star wrote a story headlined “Who will speak for the trees?” suggesting that the mature trees along the road will have to be cut down for a sidewalk.
The answer to his question, of course, is that the professional arborists hired by the City of Toronto for the Environmental Assessment will speak for the trees. In fact, they did so in a detailed inventory and report (PDF) on the impact on the local forest of the various options for the road, which he does not refer to in his story.
The arborists inventoried a total of 337 trees in the study area. They found that, no matter what option was chosen, 22 trees would have to be cut down. To add a full sidewalk, another 26 would have needed to be cut down (less than 10% of the total), of which most are young or unhealthy. But with the recommendation to keep the sidewalk within the current roadway, it looks like only the original 22 that will be cut down no matter what need to be removed (see chart on page 37 of EA). None of these are both healthy and mature (and the healthy young ones can be transplanted). So the EA recommendation has already taken care of any concerns with tree removals.
Ironically, the option that would really destroy trees (107 of them) is the fully “rural” one, because that would require digging drainage ditches along the side of the road.
The final step in delaying the sidewalk was for one of the road’s residents to appeal the EA to the provincial Ministry of the Environment, which is where it is currently sitting. Work on this long-delayed project was supposed to start this summer, but it will now be delayed even further. In frustration, and to counter the voices of the sidewalk opponents, some local residents have started a petition in favour of a sidewalk on Chine Drive.
As the Global News story linked to above about the appeal notes, the importance of safe routes to school in this area has become more telling with the recent death of a young girl killed by a truck while walking home from school on Cliffside Drive, not all that far from Chine Drive. As a result of the tragedy, a petition has also been started for sidewalks and other safety measures on routes to school in that area.