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'Irreplaceable': Citizens rally behind Lakeshore Road West trees facing removal

Council sidesteps final decision on road redesign
Sign - Lakeshore Rd W
Sign - Lakeshore Rd W | Sign - Lakeshore Rd W

Save the trees.

That was the main message delivered to town councillors as they considered a plan to redesign Lakeshore Road West.

Most of the 15 residents who made online presentations to council’s July 6 meeting expressed their opposition to felling dozens of large trees to accommodate proposed changes to the historic roadway.

But while that may have been the main message, it wasn’t the only one.

Councillors also heard from two delegates emphasizing the need to improve cycling infrastructure along the 6.3 km stretch of road between Dorval Drive and Mississaga Street in Bronte.

Five years after the town launched a process to redesign the historic stretch of Lakeshore Road West, people remain divided on what changes should be made.

Faced with conflicting feedback, town councillors avoided a final decision on the roadway design. Instead, they told town staff to prepare detailed designs for a variety of possible options.

It isn’t clear when those detailed designs may return to council for consideration.

Modern roadway features recommended

The latest proposal from town staff calls for continuous on-road bike lanes, sidewalks and curbs along the stretch of road.

Stormwater infrastructure is to be installed, intersections at Bronte and Third Line will be improved, and McCraney Bridge is slated for replacement.

But the most contentious issue is the possible construction of a three three-metre-wide paved multi-use trail along the south side of the road.

That path, which town staff suggested should be built between East Street and Fourth Line, but some councillors appear to wish to extend to Dorval Drive, will require the removal of 60 trees.

Those trees received a passionate defence from many residents.

“Just west of Third Line, nineteen trees in a row that shade the sidewalk and road will be lost,” said Pamela Knight, on behalf of the Coronation Park Residents Association.

The community will lose dozens of “irreplaceable” century trees in order to swap a perfectly good sidewalk with the multi-use path, she added.

“We think that in a climate change emergency, preserving what we have now is of paramount importance.”

Knight argued that the town should simply add on-road bike lanes, fill gaps in the existing path on the north side of the road and install signage letting people know biking is allowed.

Her vision was echoed by Karen Brock of the Oakvillegreen Conservation Association.

“In a retrofit situation in a mature neighbourhood as Lakeshore is, the sacrifice to create a multi-use trail is too great,” she said. “In retrofits, we need to help users share the existing space safely and respectfully.”

Plan is "hypocritical," says resident

Resident Joanne Robbins told councillors that removing the Lakeshore trees flies in the face of Oakville’s tree protection bylaws.

“I want to implore you to reconsider the plan,” she said. “It appears very hypocritical, from my point of view, for a town that seemingly commits to protection and preservation to intentionally destroy healthy trees.”

And on behalf of the Trafalgar Chartwell Residents’ Association, Douglas McKirgan warned that the plan’s “radical changes” threaten the very nature of Lakeshore Road West. 

“In our opinion, these changes will result in the permanent loss of something very precious to the whole of Oakville,” he said.

“We stand for preserving, as much as possible, the road and its trees, as they are now and for only making those changes which are absolutely necessary.”

Safe ride on multi-use trail

But Dane Morrison, a representative from the 450-member Oakville Cycling Club, reminded councillors of the 2016 death of a cyclist struck by a vehicle on Lakeshore Road near Third Line.

“We love trees, but we need to make Lakeshore safe,” he said.

Morrison suggested the town could narrow both the proposed bike lanes and the multi-use trail to save money and reduce the tree loss while still providing adequate service.

But he urged councillors to extend the multi-use trail through to Dorval Drive. Stopping it at Fourth Line is “the equivalent of building a bridge to nowhere,” said Morrison.

Chris Wasik, a Bronte father of three young children, also emphasized the importance of the multi-use path for safe cycling.

He noted that the narrow sidewalks discourage cycling, and riding on the road isn’t safe for many.

“On-street bike lanes are okay for experienced riders, but they do not provide a safe, inclusive place for other more cautious cyclists.”

Wasik also claimed that the advantages of getting people out of cars and onto bikes outweigh the benefits of the trees.

“If this multi-use path is used by just two people a day, it provides more ecological benefits than all 122 trees combined,” he said. “Just two people a day.”

The only delegate not interested in talking about the tree loss and cycling opportunities was Bronte resident Brian Hassett.

Describing Bronte Village as “the hit single of the album you are creating called Lakeshore improvement,” he said the village should get some special attention.

“This is where you want to have the wow moment, where you want their eyes to pop,” he said.

Hassett questioned the plan to add additional crosswalks on Lakeshore Road.

“We don’t have a rabid jaywalking problem in Bronte Village,” he said. “Why cater to laziness to not have people walk 100 feet to the left or right to cross at an intersection?”