By Tom Sproat
As St. Marys continues to expand (6,655 residents in 2011; 7,265 in 2016), municipal employees are finding new ways and areas to accommodate the growing population. One of the most recent developments includes an expanded suburb off of the North end of town, including a Wellington street extension that would intersect with the Grand Trunk Trail. This proposed extension will not become a reality for nearly ten years.
Ten years is a long time, but longer still is eighty years or one hundred years, distances of time wrapped up in rings of wood that make up the trees whose destruction would be required for the road extension to be completed. It is out of consideration for these trees and for green spaces in general that the Tree Protectors of St. Marys was born and an online petition in opposition to the extension was launched. Their petition, which in a week has already collected over 200 signatures, identifies four points of contention with the Town’s plan, including issues of pedestrian safety, traffic congestion and the afore-mentioned destruction of around thirty mature trees along the proposed route.
On that final point, the group drew parallels between Wellington street and the Emily street construction this past April: “I think that people were just really shocked at the number of trees that were cut down along Emily”, said Doctor Emily Kelly, a member of the Tree Protectors. “I don’t know that anyone was expecting that many to be destroyed, or how much it would change the look of the street […] The Grand Trunk Trail is one of the most celebrated parts of the town, and there needs to be more thought given to how it can be protected”. Doctor Kelly, herself a resident of St.Marys for only five years, knows that the town is growing and so is quick to point out that the petition is not “anti-development”; that the petition is more concerned with thoughtful and pragmatic municipal policy that accounts for all areas of concern as best it can, even if it means the discussion needs to begin ten years in advance: “One of the reasons so many want to live in St. Marys is because it’s so beautiful, with such wonderful natural spaces”, Doctor Kelly said. “It’s one of the reasons I moved here, and I want it to be the reason others move here, too.”
Doctor Kelly will be speaking to town council on Tuesday, June 13th. People are welcome to sign the online petition on www.change.org (search terms: Grand Trunk Trail) or the hard copy at the St.Marys Farmer’s Market, Flower Shop, Jennies, and Petals and Foliage (in Rannoch).