Former landscaper blasts city crews
Birch trees by fire hall not handled with kid gloves

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (July 21/99) - Yellowknife lawyer Garth Wallbridge's Monday morning demeanour changed from peaceful to angry on his drive to the office.

The former landscaper noticed that the city crew working beside the fire hall wasn't taking into account the fragile nature of the birch trees on the site. Heavy-equipment operators, he said, were working too close.

"In my mind, it's an unfortunate lack of supervision. Had they simply taken steps at the outcome to put a wooden frame around the base of the trees, the trees could continue to thrive," Wallbridge said.

Previously, Wallbridge worked on reforestation projects for the Manitoba government and in the early 80s, he transplanted 1,000 trees for the GNWT.

He said heavy equipment that operates around the base of trees damages the roots that are just below the surface, and burying the base of the tree affects their ability to get water, nutrients and air.

"Fifty dollars worth of wooden cribbing around those trees would have given them a better chance of survival," Wallbridge said.

"The city is planting 30 trees at one end of our main thoroughfare while at the same time they're harming the ones we already have."

Yellowknife Public Works acting superintendent Dave Neufeld said the city crew was filling in a ditch where pools of water collect.

He said while cribbing would have been used if the city had planted the trees, the birch trees in question were naturally occurring and they could have chosen to bulldoze them.

"To get rid of the water that settles on that site, we had to fill in the ditch," Neufeld said.

"It would have been easier to bulldoze the entire site but the crew made an effort to save the trees."