Save the mature trees on Dwight Avenue that shade Second St JMS

Save the mature trees on Dwight Avenue that shade Second St JMS

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Jodi Moran started this petition to City of Toronto

Edit: The trees are safe, for now! Please read our update



One year ago Mayor John Tory accepted the Champion of Trees Award from the Arbor Day Foundation on behalf of the City of Toronto. On 15 December, Toronto City Council will "reaffirm" a longstanding target of 40 percent tree canopy cover by 2050 to align with the TransformTO NetZero Strategy. Yet in the same meeting, they will vote to remove an entire block of mature trees beside a schoolyard to install a sidewalk, even though it could be installed alongside the trees, in a neighbourhood with only 15 percent tree canopy cover. 

The trees scheduled for removal run along the fence of Second Street Junior Middle School and provide shade, exposure to nature, and separation from a busy street to the young children who play there. The street is due to become even more busy, since 400,000 sq ft of new last mile distribution warehouses are being built directly beside the school. Further, these like all trees play a vital role in local ecosystems, water management, air quality, and carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change. 

We the below signed support the installation of an accessible sidewalk along Dwight Avenue, but call upon the city to narrow Dwight Avenue to achieve this goal, rather than remove twelve trees.

By supporting this petition you are joining great company such as

  • Jennifer Keesmat, former Chief Planner for Toronto
  • Adam Vaughan, former MP and former Toronto City Councillor
  • Pamela Gough, former TDSB Trustee for Ward 3
  • Amber Morely, Toronto City Council candidate for Ward 3
  • Alex Bozikovic, Architecture Critic at the Globe and Mail
  • Shawn Micallef, Columnist at the Toronto Star
  • Paul Kulig, Architect, Urban Designer and Principal at Perkins&Will
  • Alexander L. Satel, MFC, ISA Certified Arborist ON-1353A, consulting arborist with 12 years experience in tree protection planning

Please also follow us on Twitter for updates! @EtobicokeTrees


Further background

The City of Toronto Transportation Services department scheduled installation in 2021 of a sidewalk on the west side of Dwight Avenue between Birmingham Street and Maple Boulevard, in accordance with the Missing Link Sidewalk Program. The timing of the sidewalk installation was based on the opportunity for the work to bundled with adjacent state-of-good-repair work on surrounding streets, which saves the city money. 

However, the sidewalk installation plan included in the subcontracted work calls for the removal of 12 trees, most of which are large, healthy, mature trees. On 25 November, city staff recommended proceeding with this plan, publishing this report to support their recommendation. The recommendation was endorsed at the Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting on 2 December and will be presented to Toronto City Council on 15 December.

The proposed road design includes lanes much wider than the city’s own lane width guidelines. In their report, staff agree it is feasible to narrow the road. Narrower lanes increase safety by reducing driver speeds and pedestrian crossing distance, with no impact to capacity when traffic flow is interrupted by intersections. This is of special concern in this location, since new last-mile logistics warehouses are being built directly adjacent to Second St JMS, and can be expected to bring more traffic along Dwight Avenue.

In their report, City staff discard the option of narrowing the road because it is "beyond the scope of the existing contract" and further expenditure is not programmed in the near-term. However, the report gives no alternate designs or alternate costings. Further, the report says "narrowing the roadway would still require tree removal", but it appears this is speculation, since staff say directly following this that "the extent would need to be confirmed through a detailed design process." There is no support for the assertion from Urban Forestry or another arborist. 

Beyond the option of narrowing Dwight Avenue, the following proposed and less-expensive alternatives for preserving trees have not been given adequate consideration by city staff:

1. Installing temporary concrete barriers to narrow the road until reconstruction is feasible, as described by urban designer Paul Kulig. Kulig writes: "There really is no reason to remove these trees. In fact, keeping them and building a sidewalk on the roadway would be cheaper."

2. Installing the sidewalk alongside the trees without destroying them. A sidewalk has recently been installed as close 0.3m to mature trees, just north of the same location. The arborist report commissioned by the city for the current sidewalk design states: "This impact assessment is an estimate… some assumptions have been made since the exact machine type and dimension, limits of disturbance, and roots zones are not known". Consulting arborist Alexander Satel, who has 12 years experience in tree protection, wrote after performing a site visit: “While it is certain that some tree roots will be damaged under a conventional sidewalk construction scenario, it is not possible to conclusively determine the impacts of excavation without first conducting root-exploratory excavation [emphasis added] within, at minimum, each tree’s Tree Protection Zone (TPZ). This practice is a common condition of Tree Injury permits, and should be applied to the subject trees to inform decisions concerning removal or retention."

3. Moving the school fence to install the sidewalk. The report says that fence removal “is likely to result in tree injury” but consulting arborist Alexander Satel wrote: "I disagree with the assertion that removal of existing fence posts (if necessary to facilitate proposed sidewalk installation) would significantly harm existing trees. Fence posts, presumably set on typical poured concrete pilings, could easily be removed with minimal root damage by using a hydro-vac to excavate around each piling, if necessary. In most cases, the pilings could be pulled upwards with excavation machinery with minimal, if any, root damage." The report also says that “the sidewalk would travel through the school parking lot”, but this is not a given: the current design proposed by the city already curves around the parking lot. Further, TDSB Trustee Patrick Nunziata lent his support to exploring this option.

4. Installing a less-invasive sidewalk alternative, such as an above-grade sidewalk with ramps. Consulting arborist Alexander Satel writes: "Proven methods exist to install pathways, sidewalks, and even roads in close proximity to trees using minimal excavation or “no-dig” techniques. While the technical details of such installations must be developed and implemented on a site-specific basis, there are several common and effective methods, including those that have been reviewed and approved by Urban Forestry Services on other projects in the city." 



Q. Isn't narrowing the street an unusual request?

A. No, many streets are narrower than Dwight. For example, see this comparison of two streets in Toronto.


Q. But aren't the Norway Maple an invasive species?

A. Seven of the trees to be removed are healthy, mature Norway Maple. Norway Maple can pose problems to native species in forests and ravine settings because they are hardy and their thick canopy discourages growth underneath. However, in this case, the trees are located along an urban street from which they cannot spread to any forest or ravine. Kim Statham, Acting Director of Urban Forestry, says: "They are an excellent urban tree. There are settings such as streets, away from natural areas where their invasive qualities are not as much of a concern. Norway maples are excellent at sequestering carbon and have a lot of leaf area that contributes to local air quality and the other environmental benefits that they provide. So in the past we have advocated strongly not to allow an easier removal of Norway Maples."

Please also see this tweet from Toronto Forestry last year.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 2,500!
At 2,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!